Maria Montessori (1870-1952) created the Montessori Method of Education. She became the first female physician in Italy and as a physician she came into frequent contact with working class and poor children. It is from her experiences she observed that children build themselves from what they find in their environment. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed rather than as a blank slate waiting to be written upon.
Initially Montessori worked with intellectually challenged children. She recognised their need for stimulation, purposeful activity and self-esteem, and she set up a programme teaching them how to look after themselves and their environment. She then went on to work with the children of working parent’s co-ordinating a series of day-care centres in Rome. It was here that she founded her first Casa dei Bambini , or “Children’s Houses”.
What ultimately became the Montessori method of education developed in her Children’s House’s. She found that little children were capable of long periods of quiet concentration. They responded positively to an atmosphere of calm and order. She noticed that a young child’s love for a consistent and often-repeated routine is an environment in which everything has a place. Montessori discovered that the environment itself was all-important in obtaining the results that she had observed. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do “naturally”, by themselves, unassisted by adults. Maria Montessori is credited with the development of the open classroom, individualised education, manipulative learning materials, teaching toys and programmed instruction.