What is Montessori Preschool? Part One

The first in a multi-part series about the history, philosophy and teaching of Montessori education. April, 2008

Maria Montessori: The woman, the educator
Maria Montessori was in many ways ahead of her time. She was born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Acona, Italy in 1870. She became the first woman doctor of her generation in 1896. In her practice, her clinical observation led her to analyze how children learned, how they developed and how they created themselves from that which they found in the surrounding environment.

In 1906, Montessori accepted the challenged of working with a group of 60 children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. This was when she founded the first “Casa dei Bambini” or Children’s House. What eventually become the Montessori Educational Method was developed there, based on Maria Montessori’s scientific observations of the children who possessed a great facility to absorb the knowledge around them as well as a great interest in manipulating the available materials. Each piece of material, each exercise, each method that Montessori developed was based on what she observed: that the children could learn for themselves “naturally” without the help of any adult.

Children teach themselves. This simple but profound truth inspired Maria Montessori to devote her life in pursuit of educational reform, including the methodology, psychology, teaching and training of guides (teachers are called guides within the Montessori system). All her work was based on her dedication to the principle of children’s self-development.

Maria Montessori died in Holland in 1952 but her work continues. Today there are over 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States. Montessori schools also exist around the world, in Canada, Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Columbia, India and many other countries.

To see a Montessori preschool in operation, come visit Otoch Paal in Akumal Pueblo. Otoch Paal welcomes visitors who are interested in seeing how a Montessori center operates. Classes are in session from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visitors are requested to come between 9 and 10:30 a.m. The school is located near the back of Akumal Pueblo, on the Northern edge of the town. It can be reached by following the Pueblo’s main street (avenida) to the fourth block on the right hand side of the street. After passing the secondary and kindergarten schools (which are on the main street), turn right at the corner where the kindergarten is located and continue to the next corner. Otoch Paal is next to the kindergarten and the entrance is at the corner.

As a non-profit community-based learning center, Otoch Paal does not generate sufficient funds to pay for all necessary school improvements. Monetary donations and donations in kind are always welcome. Donations can be made directly at the school. More information can be found at: Montessori Around The World

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