Dr Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952), Italy's first woman doctor, developed a scientific  approach to education. She opened a school in the slums of Rome to test her theories about children's learning and development. A century later, scientific research is showing her educational theories were ahead of their time. She based her work on the principle that schooling should work with the child, not against it. She recognised that children have natural curiosity and desire to learn, without the need for rewards or punishments and without constant adult intervention. She further recognised that true learning only resulted from the self motivation of the child.
From these theories and deductions she developed a unique approach to education which is now one of the largest educational philosophies in the world, with over 22,000 schools in more than 100 countries on every continent. 


Montessori Philosophy has three essential elements - the Directress (teacher), the prepared environment and a culture of respect.

The role of the Directress is to awaken the child's curiosity and then to act as a facilitator in the child's learning experience by guiding, assisting and encouraging the child.  The child is thus motivated to learn through the work itself (and not by the teacher's "talk and chalk" approach). As each child has an individual programme, the teacher's role is to follow the child's progress and interests, take into account the child's style of learning and to present new material at the appropriate time. As the children work at thier own pace, they are able to move on when they are ready. Independence is encouraged as this helps develop self confidence.

The prepared environment includes scientifically developed materials designed to help the child learn independently. Montessori materials build sequentially, are generally self correcting and will usually isolate one principle. This structured environment however still allows the child to make independent choices as to what they will learn. The children are free to select activities that correspond to their own interests and level of readiness. As the children experience success in an activity, they are motivated to repeat the task and then build on it. Thus the development of concentration, self-discipline, confidence and independence begins

Educating for peace is a fundamental part of Montessori and therefore developing a culture of respect for others and for the environment is strongly promoted in the Montessori classroom.  Grouping children in mixed ages, the emphasis placed on cooperation and the non-competitive nature of a Montessori classroom all play a role in developing a sense of social and moral responsibility towards the community and the environment. Grace, courtesy and respect for others are inherent in everyday classroom life. The children are able to work either individually or in small groups and older children become role models and can often be found teaching the younger children thus reinforcing their own learning. The younger children can see what can be achieved by the older children and are eager to learn more.


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