Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of ‘The Montessori Method, was the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, and soon opened a child care centre for slum children. The Montessori Method is based on her below listed observations:
1. The child develops himself through purposeful activity.
2. Young children learn best in a home like setting, filled with appropriate material that motivate and stimulate the child to learn and develop.
3. The most important years for learning are from birth to six years, during which time the child goes through ‘Sensitive Periods. This is the Montessori term for periods in the childs growing up years when he shows unusual capabilities in acquiring particular skills. For example the Sensitive Period for Motor Skills is 2.5 to 4, and that for writing is 3.5 to 4.5.
According to Dr. Montessori, Our aim is not merely to make the child understand, and still less, to force him to memorize, but to touch his imagination, so as to enthuse him to his inmost core
What makes Montessori Education unique?
1. Montessori prepares a child not just for school but for life. Different activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, physical and motor development, as well as mental development.
2. The Prepared Environment. In a Montessori class, there is freedom within limits. Children work freely at their own pace, either alone or with others, with material they chose themselves. In order for self learning to take place, the environment must be supportive of the learner or ‘Prepared by the teacher and the Montessori materials.
3. The Montessori Materials. Dr. Montessoris observations of the kinds of things which children enjoyed doing, led her to design equipment which helped to facilitate learning of practical as well as cognitive skills.
4. The Montessori Directress (or teacher) – The Montessori teacher has a different role from the conventional teacher. She is more of an observer and facilitator rather than a teacher. She functions quietly in the back ground, as a role model, meticulous observer, record keeper of each childs growth and progress, and design the prepared environment, behavior and growth.
The teacher relies on her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials she may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and at the same time to encourage interaction within the peer group and sharing of ideas.
What happens when a child leaves Montessori?
The transfer from Montessori environment to a traditional school is fairly smooth. Montessori school children are extremely adaptable. When they leave to join a traditional school they have learned to work independently and in groups. They have been encouraged to make decisions and solve problems and make choices. They have also developed good communication skills which will stand them in good stead all through their lives. Finally they have a good self-image and are confident to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Dr. Montessori, who died in 1952 at the age of 81, believed that the child past six years never regains his/her old ability to learn. ”Why should a child wait until six before he can begin his lifes work?” she asked. By then its too late
The author is Zarin Malva, Director of Training at Sir Ratan Tata Institute Montessori Course, Mumbai.