Montessori education, initially designed for “unruly and uneducable” children, is primarily a tactile, hands-on, and experiential way of helping kids learn basic skills. Children in Montessori environments are given the freedom to use their senses and creativity to experience learning for themselves. The approach is primarily child-led.
” The fundamental principle of scientific pedagogy must be, indeed, the liberty of the pupil such liberty as shall permit a development of individual, spontaneous manifestation of the child’s nature.” — Maria Montessori
The Montessori method, also known as the Practical Life or Everyday Living curriculum, focuses on creating an environment to support the child’s development, wherein the teacher introduces materials at the appropriate developmental time, considering the following premises, components, and sensory considerations.
Maria Montessori and the Montessori Method
Maria Montessori (1870-1952), Italy’s first female physician, focused her work on educating children. Her philosophy presented three child development theories:
- >S Embryo: Every child possesses a “spiritual embryo,” a pattern for psychic unfolding revealed during the child’s development./st
- >S Periods: Every child passes through specific “sensitive periods” during which they gain knowledge from the environment./st
- >A Mind: Each child acquires knowledge through a unique process via the “absorbent mind.”/st
The Montessori educator acts primarily as peripheral observer, guide, and supporter to the children. Maria Montessori believed that “in a Montessori classroom, children can achieve self-discipline and achieve freedom for their own development when provided with the appropriate environment and materials with which to explore” (Scotty, Jocelyn. “What is Montessori?” Suite101.com, 2009).
The Six Components of a Montessori Learning Environment
The Montessori educator is responsible for maintaining six essential components of the child’s learning environment.
- re and order
- and nature
- and atmosphere
- elopment of community life
- ic Montessori materials
The Montessori Materials: Educate the Senses Before the Intellect
Maria Montessori mathematically designed her educational materials based on six principles.
- fulness to the child
- on of one sensory activity in a single material
- ls progress from simple to complex
- ls prepare the child for future learning
- ls progress from concrete expressions to abstract
- ls are divided into four categories: practical life, sensorial, academic and cultural/artistic
The Piaget educational model also emphasizes manipulatives, hands-on activities, and movement, but includes more routine and teacher involvement.
The Nine Senses of Montessori Sensory Education
Montessori materials address nine senses, including the five basic senses plus four additional senses. The “direct aims of the sensorial activities are to refine the childs senses so that he can differentiate even the slightest differences in order to truly observe and appreciate the world around him” (Coventry, Andrea. “Sensory Education in Montessori.” Suite101.com, 2009).
Montessori education creates an environment of independence and support in which children can learn basic skills, develop confidence, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility. They move between sensory activities as they see fit with a teacher on hand for help and guidance when needed.