Montessori Environment

Dr. Maria Montessori Biography

Born in 1870 in Acona, Italy, Maria Montessori grew up in a country that was very conservative in its attitude toward women; yet even against the considerable opposition of her father and teachers, Maria Montessori pursued a scientific education.  She became the first woman physician in Italy.  As a physician, Dr. Montessori specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry.  Her first experience was working at the University of Rome in a free clinic for working class and poor families.

Early in her career she became a proponent for the women’s movement, peace effort, and child labor law reform.  She accepted speaking engagements throughout Europe.  Later in her career she became a delegate to the United Nations.

In 1901 she was appointed Director of the new orthophrenic school for “mentally deficient” children at the University of Rome.  She recognized through scientific observation and research that these children needed stimulation, purposeful activity, and self-esteem.

During this time, Dr. Montessori studies with Dr. Jean Itard and Edouard  Seguin.  Itard’s theory of sensitive periods or stages in the development of the child appealed to Montessori.  She used this theory and successfully applied it to her “deficient” students in Rome, so that they were able to pass the standardized 6th grade test for the Italian public schools.  In 1907 she opened her first preschool for young children of working class parents.  She called it “Casa dei Bambini” or Children’s House”.

She introduced the children to a variety of different materials that she used at the University of Rome, plus encouraged independence, grace and courtesy, and practical skills.  Through this process, the children developed self-respect, self-discipline, and love of learning.

This is where Montessori education began and continues with your children at Pincushion Hill Montessori School.  In January of 2007, Dr. Montessori’s method celebrated its centennial anniversary.

Anyone who wants to follow my method should not honor me but follow the child as his leader.-Maria Montessori, 1912

The Montessori Method of education engages the child’s heart, mind, hand, and spirit in a thoughtful and purposeful way. The materials and lessons are designed to empower children to direct their own education and develop a sense of independence and competency. The classroom environment provides a safe and comfortable place for children to work and learn. As children progress and master the topics at their own pace, they also develop a joy of learning and critical thinking that carries through into adulthood.

Dr. Montessori designed this educational model to reflect her research on human development that she observed in children.

She observed that:

  • Children and developing young adults engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environments.
  • Children have an innate path of psychological development and are self-motivated to learn.
  • Children at liberty to choose and move freely within a prepared environment act spontaneously to optimize their development.

Dr. Montessori also noticed that humans find order and perfection appealing. Besides order and perfection, she identified other tendencies as vital to promote in the classroom for successful learning:

  • Activity
  • Orientation
  • Order
  • Exploration
  • Communication
  • Purposeful Activity (also described as ” work “)
  • Manipulation (of the environment)
  • Exactness
  • Repetition
  • Abstraction
  • Self-Perfection

At Pincushion Hill Montessori School, the Montessori method is put into practice in the classrooms where each child operates on the principle of freedom within limits. PHMS provides a safe, comfortable environment based on the core of Montessori beliefs – respect for each other and for the environment. Educational success is not measured merely by acquisition of academic skills.  While a child’s intellect is thoroughly stimulated and challenged in the Montessori classroom, equal importance is placed on social competence and character development. Elementary children have a developing sense of fair play and justice, which they learn to extend to others and to the environment through nurturing activities such as pet care and gardening, and conflict resolution using negotiation techniques. The multi-year age span within the classroom provides a family–like grouping where learning can take place naturally.  More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning.

A strong sense of individuality and responsibility is promoted in the classroom.  The child’s learning pace is internally determined, unhampered by whole group teaching that imposes the same pace of instruction for all students.  The strong sense of individuality in the class is balanced by an equal sense of community.  Students may have to wait their turn to use a particular material, learning to respect one another and not interrupting those at work.

We both went to Montessori school and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, and doing things a little differently, that contributed to our success. -Larry Page and Sergi Brin, Co-founders of Google.com

The Montessori Method

The Montessori method works because it is based on observing the activities of each child within a well-defined learning environment. Within the Montessori environment, children engage in activities of their choice during the work cycle. A trained adult observes and assists as appropriate. It is the child’s self-directed and purposeful activity that leads to greater independence, concentration, and rapid personal growth.

· Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.

· Children develop through purposeful activity.

· Children have the sensitivity and the intellectual ability to learn from their environment, their peers, as well as adults.

The whole child approach is the primary goal of a Montessori program. This is to help each child reach his or her full potential in all areas of life. Indoor and outdoor activities promote the development of special skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination, as well as cognitive preparation.

Dr. Montessori’s observations of the kinds of experiences that children enjoy and go back to repeatedly led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential, and self-correcting materials that facilitate the learning of skills and lead to learning of abstract ideas.

A Montessori prepared environment includes the outdoors, as well as the indoors, and is filled with time-tested, hands-on materials that meet specific learning needs and encourage positive brain development. Above all, the Montessori prepared environments are attractive to children and peaceful, giving children a place to learn and grow in grace and dignity.

Five BIG Differences between Traditional and Montessori Elementary Education

Many people are familiar with Montessori at the preschool level. But more and more people are now discovering the benefits of Montessori for the elementary years. If you are new to Montessori elementary education, you might be wondering if Montessori is really that different from traditional elementary programs. The answer is that they are in fact radically different. While we acknowledge and applaud teachers in non-Montessori schools who do things differently, this is a comparison between the traditional view of elementary education and the Montessori approach.

Active Learning
In traditional elementary classrooms, the teacher teaches and the child listens. The child is required to memorize and recall information for testing. The child is passive in his learning. In Montessori classrooms, the child learns through hands-on projects and self-motivated, active discovery.

Flexible Curriculum
In traditional elementary school, teachers are required to teach an establish curriculum at an established pace. By contrast, Montessori education teaches individuals in small groups based on observable needs. The curriculum does not dictate the pace of learning. Rather the child learns what and when she is ready. The child may work on a lesson as long as needed. The teacher is present to act as a guide or coach.

An Individual Approach
In traditional elementary schools, students at every grade level have the same program, i.e. 3rd graders take the pre-established 3rd grade program.  In Montessori elementary, grade levels are flexibly defined within a developmental age range (usually of 2-3 years.) Each child will work with his teacher in his unique progression through the curriculum. Groups of developmentally similar children work on the right projects or lessons for them. This approach recognizes the individual needs of each child, not just their chronological age.

Accounting for Accountability
In traditional schools, the teacher is the one accountable for covering the curriculum. If the children fall behind or are ready to move forward faster, there isn’t a whole lot the teacher can do about it. He or she is responsible for covering a certain amount of information within a specified period of time. In a Montessori school, the child is accountable for her own learning. Children are taught how to track their own progress every day. The child participates in creating her own learning path. Children are involved in choosing their own individual and group projects beginning in first grade. The child learns self-motivation and accountability from a very young age.

Where do you get your Confidence?
In traditional classrooms, it is assumed that the child needs external motivation and praise in order to learn. The teacher uses rewards and punishments. Self-confidence comes from external sources. In the Montessori classroom, the child works to satisfy his own curiosity and inner need for accomplishment. The child’s natural learning pace is honored, allowing the child to be successful at every lesson. The child gains genuine inner confidence through his own achievements.