Written by Drew Buddie
The Montessori educational system is very well known today. It was founded by Maria Montessori, an Italian born in 1870. She was an influential thinker, whose values and ideas are as relevant today as they were when the Montessori system was first conceived.
Dr Montessori’s first notable achievement was that she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School and, as she found herself treating children with ‘special educational needs’, she soon began to specialize in this field. By observing children within the classroom as a scientist would observe phenomena in a laboratory, she was able to devise theories that would help the children to achieve their true potential, by tailoring the teaching to suit their specific learning requirements.
She had a group of fifty ‘poor’ children from a San Lorenzo slum on the outskirts of Rome. Her success with these children in the Casa dei Bambini, "House of Children", soon became world-renowned with people coming from all over the world to observe her at work. One such person was Alexander Graham Bell who invited her to America in 1915. She set up a classroom with glass walls and she was observed at work as she taught 21 new students. Students in her class won educational awards when they might have been expected to win nothing. So it was that her techniques were seen by many to be of great value to academia.
She believed that all children are motivated to learn and they absorb knowledge without effort when provided with the right kind of activities at the right time in their development. This philosophy, along with her adage to ‘follow the child’, is still used in many educational establishments to this day.
It is this essence of observation and support that sets Montessori schools apart from others. Any school can use the name Montessori, but to truly adhere to the principles of the person from whom the name comes, the school must help children by developing their creativity, problem solving, social, and time-management skills.
The ultimate aim is to encourage the growth of the individual by nurturing their own attributes. By encouraging the whole person: spiritually, morally, socially, physically etc., it is possible to allow the child to develop into a lifelong learner and problem solver whose educational pathway may be entirely different to his or her peers.
American Montessori Society
Extensive description of Montessori history and methodology. The site provides details of further reading material.
http://www.amshq.org/montessori_philosophy.htm (Visited 8-July-05)
International Montessori Index
This site provides extensive support to parents wishing to locate a Montessori school, for those who wish to set up their own school using this methodology and for researchers who wish to learn more about this educational system.
http://www.montessori.edu/ (Visited 8-July-05)
A seemingly independent website promoting ands supporting internationally, schools which are using the Montessori system.
http://www.montessoriconnections.com/ (Visited 8-July-05)
The website of an international magazine specializing in the Montessori education system.
http://www.montessorimagazine.com/magazinebodyYMC.html (Visited 8-July-05)
Montessori St Nicholas Charity
Website of the UK charity set up to support and promote the work of the Montessori establishments across the country. Has lots of information although the website does not have a very professional look to it.
http://www.montessori.org.uk/schools.php (Visited 11-July-05)
This website is part of a small family business the intention of which is to provide a forum for Montessori teachers as well as parents looking for such a school. Contains a series of very useful links.
http://www.montessori.co.uk/ShowPage.aspx (Visited 11-July-05)
As its name implies, this is a worldwide organization and the website is a veritable treasure trove of useful links and information.
http://www.montessori.ac.uk/ (Visited 12-July-05)
Rathunde, Kevin (2003) A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional Middle Schools: Motivation, Quality of Experience, and Social Context. The NAMTA Journal, 28 (3): 13 - 52 http://www.montessori-namta.org/NAMTA/PDF%20files/RathundeCompar.pdf