Maria Montessori

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Maria Montessori was born in the village of Charaville, Italy on August 31, 1870. She was born to a well respected family and was expected to grow up to fulfill the traditional role of the Italian woman. When she was three years old, the family moved to Rome where she received her education. Upon graduating from high school, Montessori pursued an advanced degree at the University of Rome and became the first woman physician to graduate in Italy. Her interests drew her to work with children, mainly those who were disadvantaged and had special needs.

Montessori became an anthropologist. Through her work at the Orthophrenic Clinic, her decisions about working with children were made up by observing them first. She was not trained as an educator, so her decisions were based upon watching what children did and what they were attracted to. In 1898, Dr. Montessori addressed the Congress for Teachers.

She spoke of an anthropological approach to children's development. This led to teacher training at The State Orthophrenic School. Dr. Montessori lectured on the function of the school teacher, Whose task it was not to judge the children. She felt it was the teachers role to help guide and enlighten something that was asleep in the student. Mental work would not exhaust the child, it would give the child nourishment. Through her observations and trial and error, she developed what became known as the Montessori Method of education. She experimented with materials that would awaken the child's potential. It was a radical departure In Montessori's time.

A new housing project was being built in a part of Rome. The tenants of the housing project where day laborers who left their children of five years of age home alone and unsupervised. Dr. Montessori was given a room...