Women's History Month Spotlight: Maria Montessori

Women's History Month Spotlight: Maria Montessori

(KFVS) - March is Women's History Month, in the spotlight for March 3, 2016 is physician and educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952), best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name. Her educational method is in use today in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide.

Montessori was born in provincial Italy to a middle class family. She was an avid learner and, in 1896 graduated with honors from the University of Rome, becoming the first female doctor in Italy.

As a doctor, Montessori chose the field of pediatrics, and treated many poor and working-class children at the free clinic of her medical-school alma mater.

She became the director of a school for developmentally disabled children in 1900, and there began her extensive research into early childhood development and education. Montessori put together her own educational theories, which she tested on her students, and found many of them showed remarkable improvement.

In 1907, the Italian government allowed Montessori to test her teaching methods among non-disabled children, putting her in charge of 60 students from the slums, ages 1-6 years old.

At the Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, she created a "prepared Learning" environments, which Montessori believed was conducive to sense learning and creative exploration. Teachers were encouraged to let children's natural interests take the lead in their learning.

Schools based on Montessori's theories gradually fell out of favor in the years leading up to World War II.

During the war, she fled to India, where Montessori's work developing and running a program called Education for Peace earned her two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

A resurgence in Montessori schools happened in the 1960s, after her death.

The Montessori Method is now used in schools all over the world to educate young children.

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