Montessori History

History of Montessori

Sheila at via dei Marsi, 58 – the first Casa Dei Bambini set up by Maria Montessori in 1907.

Montessori education debuted in 1907 with Maria Montessori’s first school, the Casa dei Bambini, part of an urban renewal project in a low-income district of Rome. The school’s success resounded throughout Italy, and additional schools soon opened in Rome and Milan. In 1909, Dr. Montessori published her landmark book, The Montessori Method.

By 1910, news of the innovative technique had spread beyond Europe, and teachers throughout the world were eager to learn it. Early Montessori educators were taught by Dr. Montessori herself. Her courses drew students from as far as Chile and Australia, and within a few years there were Montessori schools on 5 continents.

Dr. Montessori travelled widely, giving courses and lectures and encouraging the launch of new schools. In 1929, together with her son, Mario, she established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to oversee the many national organisations and their schools and to supervise the education of Montessori teachers worldwide.

Extending the Philosophy

Maria Montessori, Italian educator, with a large group of children from one of her “works” in Italy. (AP Photo)

Dr. Montessori’s early research focused on educating young children, but in the 1920s she turned her attention to adolescence. At this stage of development, she observed, adolescents need activities that help them to understand themselves and to find their place in the world.

She proposed residential schools where adolescents could work and live in a trusting community, engaging in real-world activities such as farming or marketing their own handmade goods. By experiencing human interdependence, she believed, adolescents would learn how society is organised and develop the skills needed to meet the world’s challenges in a positive way. Today, many Montessori schools serving adolescents provide real-life opportunities such as those suggested by Dr. Montessori.

In time, Dr. Montessori also wove peace education into her curriculum, a result of having lived through two horrific world wars.

The founder of the Montessori Method remained its most prominent advocate into her eighth decade. Shortly before her death in 1952, she was planning a lecture tour of Africa, seeing in that continent a fertile opportunity for growth. Mario then took on the leadership of the Montessori Movement, continuing as its head until his death 30 years later. Two of his children, Mario Jr. and Renilde, carried on the family’s leadership as advocates for the Movement, with Renilde taking an active role in the work of AMI as a trainer, lecturer, examiner and, ultimately, as president of the organization until 2005.