The week of February 24–March 2 celebrates Montessori Week and marks the 106th anniversary of Montessori education. It is a time to come together as Montessorians to celebrate and recognize the amazing contributions of Dr. Maria Montessori in the lives of children around the world. Here are some of the most notable contributions that Dr. Montessori had on education and children's rights reform, as well as some inspiration for sharing your experiences with the Montessori community!
Ahead of her time, Maria Montessori has had a greater impact on education than most people realize. Have you ever been invited to a first-grade classroom and wondered how it would be possible to sit at that small table on an even smaller chair? You can thank Maria Montessori for developing child-size furniture to address the physical needs of children. Prior to Montessori’s intervention, children had to use oversized, adult furniture.
Celebrating Montessori Week: Remembering the Past of Education, and Shaping the Future
Another outstanding contribution was Montessori’s didactic materials. She understood the importance of the hand-brain connection and developed pedagogical materials to stimulate the senses and provide the brain with a concrete understanding of abstract concepts. She refused to call her materials toys. Learning is not play; it is real work! Today, you will see a wide variety of manipulatives used in most conventional classrooms.
Perhaps the most important contribution was Montessori’s insistence of respecting the child as an individual. In a time when children were to be “seen and not heard,” Dr. Montessori was vehemently outspoken about the rights of children. Contemporary learning theories such as emotional literacy, cooperative learning, authentic assessment, and multiple intelligences all have a firm foundation in Montessori theory.
Montessori has touched the lives of children and adults around the world. By recognizing the child’s own ability to learn, teachers have been freed to gently guide the child along the path of knowledge. A mutually respectful working relationship develops where guide and child work together to help develop the construction of knowledge. This early independence develops creative minds, capable of intense problem-solving. Indeed, some of today’s great thinkers, artists, and politicians were Montessori educated: Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google); Julia Child (chef); Will Wright (video game pioneer); Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia); Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Literature Nobel Prize); and Jeff Bezos (CEO Amazon.com). In addition, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) all advocated and helped start Montessori schools.
As we celebrate Montessori Week and reflect on the impact Montessori has had in our lives, why not invite the children to reflect on it, too? Ask your students, fellow teachers, and parents why Montessori is important to them. Then, publish their responses in the school newsletter or create a bulletin board for all to see. Older children can interview each other and write up their findings, or turn the interviews into a class podcast or newscast.
In the meantime, we at NAMC want to take the time to share our own personal experiences and feelings about Montessori. Stay tuned as we highlight some of these stories during Montessori Week!
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, February 22, 2013.