About Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori became the first female medical doctor in Italy at the turn of the century. She began by working with children who had been labeled “defective.” She observed them, determined how to support their learning, and designed learning experiences to help them succeed. When these children successfully passed exams with normal children, she applied her approach to normal children in a Roman ghetto.
Her work covers in detail two “planes of development”: The first plane (the period of the absorbent mind) is grouped roughly into ages 0 to 3 and 3 to 6+; the second plane is grouped into ages 6 to 9 and 9 to 12. Montessori outlined the work of the third plane (12 to 18), and some experimental work was done with Montessori children ages 12 to 15, in an “erdkinder” setting. She also wrote briefly but eloquently about the fourth plane, ages 18 to 24, in The Function of the University.
Her results were so dramatic that her “methods” - a term she thoroughly rejected - spread rapidly all over the world. In America, Alexander Graham Bell and Woodrow Wilson were among her supporters. In Switzerland, Jean Piaget headed the Montessori Society and borrowed extensively from Maria Montessori’s work. In India, Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and the Begum Aga Khan spread her work. When Mussolini, however, asked her to turn Italy’s state schools into Montessori schools, she fled the country. Dr. Montessori later held chairs in anthropology and psychology at the University of Rome. For her work in education for peace, she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Montessori method uses universal fundamental principles of development in children and can be adapted to any group of children in any culture. It has become a continuing educational experiment with a background of shared experience for over 100 years on all continents of the world through the organization Maria Montessori founded in 1929, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI).