After years of observation and scientific study of children, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed. But not only his intelligence; the full totality of his psychic powers…at no other age has the child greater need of an intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection.”
Dr. Montessori was a pioneering genius in developing a philosophy and creating materials for teaching. All her monumental contributions to education came from watching the child at work. She clearly saw and labeled different planes of development and sensitive periods with which each child is universally blessed. The child learns with remarkable ease and grace during these temporary periods of heightened curiosity and interest. Believing that the hand is the teacher for children, Dr. Montessori devised a series of truly remarkable sensorial materials for all areas of learning: arithmetic, geometry, language, biology, botany, zoology, and music.
Who Was Dr. Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy, in 1870 to parents who very early recognized her outstanding abilities. As a young child she displayed great mathematical ability and initially intended to become an engineer, which she did. She was also interested in biology and did postgraduate work in psychiatry.
She entered the University of Rome’s Medical School and graduated in 1896 as the first woman ever granted a medical degree by an Italian university. Her first assignment was as an assistant doctor in the University’s Psychiatric Clinic. Her work with special children during the three following years led to an invitation from the Ministry in Rome to lecture on the educational possibilities of the exceptional child. The materials that Dr. Montessori devised after working with these children continually for three years drew a great deal of attention. She then presented these exceptional children from local institutions for the public examinations for primary certificates, (a certificate that, for most Italians, was the extent of their formal schooling), and to the amazement of everyone except Dr. Montessori, the children passed the examination.
Dr. Montessori realized from this experience that there must be something wrong with the general education. So she began her famous work with children and became, not only a medical doctor, but a world renowned educator whose great contributions are being realized and praised all over the world.