by Karen Skinulius and Stanley Shapiro

Maria Montessori's work sparked an international education movement

Montessori Education is based upon two powerful, unique ideas that are supported by 100 years of academic excellence and current scientific research: the child as a self-motivated, active learner, and the school as a scientifically prepared environment.  Dr. Maria Montessori observed and documented children’s natural curiosity and love of learning.  Shunning the traditional view of the classroom as a factory and the child an empty vessel to be filled, Montessori designed classrooms to correspond to the unique developmental and learning opportunities presented by the children.  The goal of education is not to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of study; rather, it is to cultivate a life-long love of learning.

This goal is accomplished in the Montessori classroom by enabling children to learn through active exploration based on choice and by providing a methodically prepared learning environment based on scientifically recognized developmental periods.  Specially trained Montessori teachers act as the guide between the child’s readiness and the appropriate lesson.  The teacher’s role is to help guide each child individually as he or she seeks out the learning opportunities that are presented.  Montessori teachers are appropriately called guides or directors to reflect their role in the child’s learning.

Observing a Northern Fur Seal in St. Paul Island. Real life interaction with the environment is one example of how the Montessori classroom extends beyond the walls of the school

Dr. Montessori recognized the hand as the instrument of the child’s mind and said that “mental development must be connected to movement and be dependent on it.”  Specially designed Montessori materials enable the child to fix his attention on the lesson by focusing both the hand and the mind simultaneously.  This effort at coordinating the brain with movement at the earliest ages is unique to Montessori.