Maria Montessori was the first woman to receive a medical degree in Italy. Born in 1870, she believed that each child has a potential that is waiting to be revealed. Working in the fields of education, psychiatry and anthropology, she has contributed immensely to raising and educating children. Her work mainly focused on the areas of providing a natural and life-supporting environment for the child and, constantly changing that environment to suit the child physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Maria Montessori attended a boy’s technical school with the support of her mother and against the wishes of her father. After a brief stint in engineering, she took to premed and became a physician in 1896. At the psychiatric clinic, in the University of Rome, she took keen interest on the treatment of children with special needs. She was attached to this field for several years. In 1907, she studied normal street children, when she was authorized to conduct the study on about fifty poor and dirty children from the desolate streets of San Lorenzo slums, on the outskirts of Rome. Dr. Montessori was amazed at the level of potential exhibited by these children.
Convinced at the early age potential among children, Dr. Montessori advocated that the age of three would be too late to begin support and development activities in children. This laid the groundwork for the three-year full time program in ‘Montessori Assistants to Infancy program’ in 1947, which is today followed in several countries. She developed the Montessori program for elementary children, for the age group 6-12. The children were provided materials to enable them to pursue an open-ended research, which ended in the children working at a higher level than followed previously. When students were in a mixed age group of 6-12, they inspired and taught each other.
Dr. Montessori’s views and methods have been have spread throughout the world. For those who followed her work, she always wanted them to focus and observe the child. The potential of the child is not just related to mental ability, and can only be known when Montessori methods are completely understood and followed.
The International Montessori Index (2008) Maria Montessori M.D, [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 6th April 2008, from http://www.montessori.edu/maria.html