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This portion of our web guide focuses on the Montessori method of education.

The Montessori method is a child-centered approach to teaching based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. The emphasis is on independence, choice, and the holistic development of the whole child -- physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. In Montessori classrooms, children engage in self-directed activities, hands-on learning, and collaborative play, guided by teachers who are trained in the method.

The Montessori method is named for its founder, Maria Montessori, who developed the method in the early 20th century. One of Italy's first female medical doctors, Dr. Montessori, specialized in psychiatry and pediatrics. She began developing her unique teaching methods while attending courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome in 1897, where she learned educational theory. While visiting mental asylums in Rome, she observed that confined children were in need of more stimulation from the environment.

She opened her first classroom, the Casa dei Bambini (Children's House), in Rome in 1907. Although her methods were refined over the years, from the beginning, her teaching methods were based on her observations of children and experimentation with the environment, materials, and lessons that were made available to them.

In 1909, she documented her teaching methods, which was translated into English as The Montessori Method in 1912. As she had partnered with Alice and Leopoldo Franchetti, prominent education reformers, the methodology became known as Method Franchetti-Montessori.

Translated into English, Montessori education quickly spread to the United States, where the first Montessori school in the United States was the Scarborough School in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

Almost as quickly as it came, Montessori education faced criticism after William Heard Kilpatrick, an influential education teacher, published The Montessori System Examined in 1914, a booklet that was harshly critical of the method. As a result, the growth of the Montessori Method was slowed until 1960, when it enjoyed a rebirth, spreading to thousands of schools. Today, several U.S. public schools have incorporated the Montessori Method.

Montessori education has spread worldwide, including Southeast Asia and India, where Maria Montessori was interned during World War II. Mahatma Gandhi met with Maria Montessori in London in 1931, after which Montessori education was initially connected to the Indian independence movement.

Montessori education centers around the belief that children are naturally curious and capable of self-directed learning. Its key principles include children choosing their activities from a prepared environment and fostering independence. Its classrooms feature tactile, self-correcting materials that encourage exploration, and children of different ages learn together, promoting collaboration and mentorship. Learning is personalized, allowing each child to develop at their own pace. While children are given autonomy, boundaries guide their choices.

Critics argue that Montessori classrooms can be too unstructured, leading to excessive freedom. Other concerns question how well Montessori students will adapt to traditional schools due to differences in structure and assessment.

Although some schools have extended their programs for younger children to the middle school and high school levels, Montessori education is largely associated with infant and toddler programs, preschool and kindergarten, and elementary classrooms. During her lifetime, Dr. Montessori didn't establish a teacher training program or a detailed education plan for adolescents.

With the availability of mobile devices, some Montessori activities have been made into mobile applications, although they have often been criticized for the lack of physical interaction with objects.

Most Montessori schools use digital technology today so as to prepare students for their future, although technology is not used in the same way that it would be used in a traditional classroom, the idea being not to simply replace real-world activities with high-tech ones. Devices are usually not used when students are being taught in Montessori classrooms. When students have a question about something, they are encouraged to try to solve it themselves rather than turning to a device for the answer. Technology is used when there is a specific purpose for its use. Some Montessori schools do not support the use of such technology in the classroom.

Montessori teaching has had a strong influence on education worldwide. It emphasizes child-centered learning, hands-on materials, and individualized progress.

Topics related to Montessori education are appropriate for this category, although local school sites should be submitted to the appropriate Local & Global category.



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