Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the University of Rome’s psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of children and for several years wrote and spoke on their behalf. At age twenty-eight, she became the director of a school for mentally-disabled children.
These children within two years under her guidance of following the needs of these children, who formerly had been considered uneducable, completed the state school examination along with normal children and passed successfully. Dr. Montessori wondered if mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal children, what would the potential of “normal” children? She went back to school to study anthropology and psychology. In 1907, she was asked to take charge of fifty children from the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenz slum in the city of Rome. Just like traditional educators, Dr. Montessori had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments, such as gluttony, vanity, or selflove, in order to foster in him a spirit of work and peace. However, Dr. Montessori discovered that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts and exterior rewards. Dr. Montessori urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary prizes and punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and to confine themselves to directing them gently in their work.
Dr. Montessori was then invited to set up a classroom at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco so that more interested people could observe her methods. A room was built with a glass wall behind which spectators sat and watched the children. Twenty-one children, all completely new to a Montessori environment, attended for four months. The observation seats were filled every day, when the children served lunch to their classmates and washed up afterwards, there was standing room only in the audience. The two gold medals awarded for education at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition both went to the Montessori class.
After W.W.II Dr. Montessori’s concern with education for peace intensified and she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She instituted the study of Cosmic Education for the child from six to twelve years of age, since she could see that in meeting the needs of the child, the needs of the world would also be met. “Cosmic Education” is the child’s gradual discovery, throughout the whole of childhood, of the interrelatedness of all things on earth, in the past, in the present, and in the future
Invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and other scholars, Dr. Montessori made an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1915. The following is from a 1913 letter from A. Graham Bell:
Dear Dr. Montessori,
On behalf of the Montessori Educational Association of America I have the honor to inform you that we have elected you as its first Honorary member and to express to you in this way our deep appreciation of your great work for humanity.
—Alexander Graham Bell, 1913
We welcome children from the entire Niagara Region. We are located in the north end of St. Catharines at 325 Scott St. Book a tour today to see how a Montessori experience can benefit your child. Please call (905) 935-1092 for a personalized tour.