Maria Montessori was born in Italy on August 31, 1870. She was born to a well-respected family, expected to grow up to fulfill the traditional role of an Italian woman. Instead she pursued an advanced degree at the University of Rome and she became the first woman physician to graduate in Italy. Her interests drew her to work with children; initially those who were considered disadvantaged and had special needs. Maria began to realize that all children could benefit from a hands on learning approach combined with concrete didactic materials.
Maria Montessori was an anthropologist so her decisions about the education of children were made through observation. She was not trained as an educator and thus watching what children did and seeing what they were naturally attracted to, helped her to develop her philosophy. This is what is known as the Montessori Method of Education. It was a radical departure in Montessori’s own time.
Montessori did not place children in restricting environments, but instead designed the environment to reflect the children’s needs. Tables and chairs were child-sized with materials accessible for them to reach. In addition, many of the skills were designed to teach the child independence. The more they became capable of doing things for themselves, the more the children thrived.
Montessori continued throughout her life to work for the improvement of the lives of children, founding training centers for teachers and dispersing this method of educating children to promote the principles of peace. Her legacy has been the establishment of Montessori schools around the world. Dr. Montessori has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize three times.