Dr. Maria Montessori, physician and pioneer educator, based her educational theory on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior in many cultures and many countries.
The “Montessori Method of Education” grew out of an understanding that children must be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another. She observed that children have an innate desire to explore, discover, and learn about their world, especially during “sensitive periods” in their development. She recognized that they learn best in a non-competitive environment that supports their individual growth.
“If education is always to be conceived as a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it for the bettering of humanity’s future,” she wrote. “The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new and peaceful world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.”
Maria Montessori carried her message throughout the world, including the United States in 1912. After an enthusiastic first response, interest in the U.S. waned during the period of the two World Wars until a reintroduction of her methods in the mid-1950’s, followed by the organization of the American Montessori Society in 1960. There are now thousands of schools throughout the world, both public and private, offering programs to children from infancy through high school age based on Montessori educational philosophy.