What is Montessori
The North American Montessori Association (NAMTA) describes Montessori as:
“… a comprehensive educational approach from birth to adulthood based on the observation of children's needs in a variety of cultures all around the world."
Beginning her work almost a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this educational approach based on her understanding of children's natural learning tendencies as they unfold in “prepared environments; for multi-age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and 12-14).
The Montessori environment contains specially designed, manipulative materials for development that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning." Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide, serving children from birth through adolescence.
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The Montessori Approach
"I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method." Maria Montessori
The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life. It is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. Its flexibility provides a matrix within which each individual child's inner directives freely guide the child toward wholesome growth.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. The children's innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult.
Through their work, the children develop concentration and joyful self-discipline. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities. The transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental planes.
Montessori practice changes in scope and manner to embrace the child's changing characteristics and interests. The first plane of development occurs from birth to age six. At this stage, children are sensorial explorers, constructing their intellects by absorbing every aspect of their environment, their language and their culture.
From age 6 to 12, children become conceptual explorers. They develop their powers of abstraction and imagination, and apply their knowledge to discover and expand their worlds further.
The years between 12 and 18 see the children become humanistic explorers, seeking to understand their place in society and their opportunity to contribute to it.
From 18 to 24, as young adults, they become specialized explorers, seeking a niche from which to contribute to universal dialogue. Reprinted from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) website.
The Montessori Teacher
The role of a Montessori teacher is one of guide and observer, whose ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the child develops. The teacher builds an atmosphere of calm, order and joy in the classroom and encourages the children in all their efforts, thus promoting self-confidence and discipline.
With the younger students at each level, the teacher is more active, demonstrating the use of materials and presenting activities based on an assessment of the child's needs. Knowing when to observe and intervene is a skill the Montessori teacher develops during their training.
The Montessori Classroom
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The children's inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration, motivation, persistence and discipline. Within this framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities, during the crucial years of development.
Montessori classrooms are designed for a multi-age mix to allow for both individual and social development. The more experienced children share what they have learned with those new to the group. Each child's unique personality is encouraged; each child is respected as an important member of a community. Discovering the joys of learning and developing social and intellectual discipline lay the foundation for a happy, productive life. The children develop an appreciation for the world while becoming responsible human beings and active members of a harmonious society.
Maria Montessori graduated from the medical school of the University of Rome in 1896, and was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was very involved with the care of young children. Through scientific observation, Dr. Montessori came to see how children interacted with one another, learned through the use of materials she provided, and went through specific phases of development.
Her approach to education was developed based on her observations, in collaboration with her background in psychology and her belief in the education of children as a means to create a better society. Dr. Montessori continued to observe children around the world, and found that the universal laws of development she had recognized were inherent to children of all races and cultures. The Montessori approach to education continues to be respected and practiced internationally. Adapted from "What Is Montessori" published by the Association Montessori Internationale.