Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, studied the development of children and created a theory of education that says that children are inherently self-motivated learners. She believed that this quality could best be developed and nurtured in a carefully prepared environment filled with appropriate materials and activities that support active and self-paced learning. In this environment, children are free to develop self-esteem, confidence, independence, and a love for learning that provides a solid foundation for life.
Maria Montessori proposed presenting the whole Universe to the child in the elementary years. The Universe holds within it the answers to all questions. Such an all-inclusive context can meet the challenge of the child’s great intellectual curiosity and strength at this age.
In a traditional education setting, children accumulate isolated bits and pieces of knowledge without a way of relating one to another. Montessori education stimulates their power of reason to search for the connections between all things, and provides the framework in which individual and social discipline go hand in hand.
Characteristics of a Montessori Classroom
Child-Directed Work – The child is at the center of our instructional model. Children, with the guidance of a teacher, are encouraged to follow their interests, and indulge their curiosity. They are empowered to be responsible for their own learning. Our goal is children with good executive function skills.
Multi-Age Groupings – Our classrooms have multi-age groupings, based on the Montessori planes of development. Younger children in the group enhance their learning by being exposed to the modeling of the older children in the group, who, in turn, solidify their own understanding by instructing the younger children. Multi-age groupings also support children working at their own level.
Montessori Materials – Children in Montessori learn concretely, with hands-on materials (3D learning). Our materials are our text books. We move to a more abstract (paper/pencil) model at around the 4th grade level. Montessori said, “The hands are the instrument of man’s intelligence”.
Whole Child Development – In Montessori schools, children’s social/emotional development is considered as important as their academic development. Montessori students are supported in treating themselves, their community and their environment with care and respect. Grace and courtesy are an important part of our curriculum, and a community-wide expectation.
Intrinsic Motivation – Montessori education strives to instill children with intrinsic motivation to learn, and to make positive choices. Montessori educators do not use grades, reward charts, stickers, candy or punishments to motivate children to comply. We aspire to educate children who love to learn, and who do the right thing, even in the absence of carrots and sticks (bribes and threats). We use natural and logical consequences whenever possible, when children need support.
Environmentalism, Multi-culturalism and Peace curriculum – Maria Montessori believed strongly in encouraging children’s inherent affinity with nature, and in the importance of engaging children in the work of protecting our natural resources. Maria Montessori felt very strongly that children were the world’s best hope for peace. She developed a peace curriculum for children which includes a curiosity about other cultures, celebrating differences, and teaching conflict resolution skills. Montessori schools celebrate multi-culturalism and support environmental awareness.
What do Alexander Graham Bell, Princess Diana, and Bill and Hilary Clinton have in common? They were all Montessori parents.
What do the founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founder of Amazon, Jeffrey Bezos, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Julia Child have in common? They were all Montessori students.
Curiosity, creativity, and passion for life long learning are all hallmarks of the Montessori Method, where children are encouraged to ask questions, explore their interests, and develop mastery through hands-on experience.