Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, near Ancona, Italy in 1870. She qualified as a doctor – the first woman doctor in Italy – in 1896. She worked with children with special needs and developed techniques of observation which served her throughout her later career. Her observations led her to research in education, and she completed further studies in psychology, philosophy and anthropology. Her first Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, was opened in Rome on the 6th January, 1907. Today, there are Montessori schools in almost every country in the world and the insights of Montessori education, while revolutionary in their time, are now seen as accepted wisdom in the wider educational field.
As the Montessori movement expanded worldwide, Maria Montessori continued to research, publish, and lecture. With the help of her son, Mario, she developed many original materials which are still being used today.
Montessori believed that, given freedom within a specially prepared environment, children will educate themselves, assisted, where necessary, by teachers. As children grow, the environment needs to change to reflect the needs and abilities of the children. The role of the teacher also changes as the children develop, but the teacher’s primary role is always to assist the child’s self-education.
Maria Montessori died in the Netherlands in 1952.