Montessori Schools: How These Schools Got Started Will Surprise You

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Some parents think Montessori schools were created specifically for gifted children, but this simply isn’t true. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn how these schools really got their start.

Montessori is the name of the learning method created by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician-turned-educator. While working with children with disabilities, Dr. Montessori used scientific observations to study their learning processes and develop a learning plan. Her intent was to create an education that would help children of all abilities reach their full potential.

maria montessori
Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian physician and educationist, born in Rome.

The first Montessori school, Casa dei Bambini, was then opened in 1907 in the slums of Rome. Since the school was part of an urban renewal project, the first class was comprised of students, aged three to six, who were all from illiterate families.

The school soon became a huge success. According to the Montessori Society of Canada, in less than a year, 50 students became self-disciplined, independent learners. As a result, they became known as Dr. Montessori's “Miracle Children.”

Due to the school’s success, additional Montessoris were opened in Rome and Milan, before eventually spreading throughout Europe and around the world.

maria montessori
This is a partial view of a class in one of Maria Montessori's "works," or kindergartens, seen Aug. 26, 1970.

Montessori education differs from traditional education in a few ways. Not only does the class include a range of ages, but it also focuses on letting children learn independently and at their own pace. There is less instruction by the teacher as well, and students are also free to pursue topics that are of interest to them.

“We see it as an individualized approach to education from toddlers to high school,” Katherine Poyntz, executive director of the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA), told the Globe and Mail in 2013.

“It’s sort of a buzzword in education now, but this is an approach that encourages curiosity and leads children to ask questions and think for themselves, and that’s central to Montessori.”


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