Dr. Maria Montessori was an innovator from the start. Born in 1870 in Italy, she graduated from medical school as the first woman doctor in Italy. Early in her career, Montessori's attention, bolstered by habits of scientific observation, was drawn to questions of child development and education. By January 1907, she was eager to implement her ideas and to explore what she felt were possibilities untried with young children up to that time. As a result, Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, in a tenement building in Rome.
Given carefully prepared materials and new opportunities to learn, the children in that first Montessori environment grew in ways that seemed astonishing. They developed remarkable coordination, concentration, persistence, the ability to observe and discriminate, and a sense of order. Their abilities led to confidence in themselves, which in turn allowed them to undertake even more complex tasks. Under the guidance of the "directress", the children chose what they wanted to work with, and Montessori found that in the security of the Casa, where materials were always available and help toward the next step was always forthcoming, the children were soon choosing to work with materials that corresponded precisely to what they most needed at that moment to learn. Since their work was self-motivated, the children learned eagerly and thoroughly. They were well on the way to developing independence essential both then and now to satisfaction in life - the psychological strength, or confidence, to choose goals for themselves, and the physical and intellectual abilities necessary to achieve them.
Her unique philosophy sparked the interest of educators worldwide. As news of the new education system flourished and spread throughout the world, Dr. Montessori began to travel to help spread the method and to help train teachers in this new method. In the following decades Montessori schools opened throughout Europe, in North and South America, and, finally, on every continent but Antarctica.
In 1929 Dr. Montessori established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to support the swell of Montessori schools, teacher education programs, and national organizations around the world. In the United States, Montessori caught on quickly, propelled by prominent advocates and glowing media reports. But by the 1920s the movement had fizzled, and 40 years would go by before Montessori schools would return in substantial numbers.
The leader of the American revival was Nancy McCormick Rambusch, a vibrant, persuasive educator intent on bringing about change. In 1960 Dr. Rambusch launched the American Montessori Society, the first—and still the largest—of several modern-era organizations supporting Montessori in America and around the world.
The Montessori Method was developed by Dr. Montessori through scientific observation of children. Today modern research is proving her original observations of children and how they learn.
Dr Montessori was truly an innovator in the fields of education, early childhood education, childcare facilities and child development as well as a renowned scientist of her day. The practice of early childhood education throughout the world has been touched by Dr. Montessori’s work. Her early innovations, including lowering furniture to children’s heights, have become commonplace. Her observations, which affected child theorists like Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget, have affected the momentum of children’s education. Most significantly, she was a pioneer in children’s rights, leading to a change in how educators, parents, and communities viewed the children in their care. Her work, in Montessori schools and for all children, is felt throughout the world today.