Overview & History
The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of people from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s method has been time tested, with over hundred years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world. It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child — physical, social, emotional, cognitive.
Montessori education dates back to 1907, when Dr. Montessori opened the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a low-income district of Rome. Her unique philosophy sparked the interest of educators worldwide, and in the following decades, Montessori schools opened throughout Europe, in North and South America, and finally, on every continent but Antarctica. Today, there are more than 4,000 Montessori schools in the United States, and thousands more bring the Montessori method to every corner of the world.
Dr. Montessori observed that children experience sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity, as they grow. As their students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to these sensitive periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized.
In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.
In the elementary years, the child continues to organize their thinking through work with the Montessori learning materials and an interdisciplinary curriculum as they pass from the concrete to the abstract. They begin the application of his knowledge to real-world experiences.
For more information, visit the American Montessori Society website.
Montessori Materials and Lessons
The teaching materials at SMS are based on Dr. Montessori’s research. They are hands-on and represent one concept at a time. Materials are set up in a very specific order in the classroom. Teachers add new materials to the classroom regularly to meet the needs and interests of their students.
Each student receives age-appropriate lessons from the teacher that correspond to the child’s current level of knowledge and skill. For example, a child in a Children’s House class may not yet be able to properly grip a pencil for writing, but knows their sounds and letters. To support the student, the teacher will have the student work with the Moveable Alphabet, a box with wooden letters, to write a story. The teacher will later record the story on lined paper. This approach allows the child to achieve a higher level of writing skills appropriate to their knowledge level. At the elementary level, a student might have mastered the concept of multiplication, but not not yet memorized multiplication facts. The teacher might have the student use the Montessori Checkerboard to solve multi-digit multiplication problems. In the Upper Elementary classroom, students work with different math materials according to their skill levels.
In all classrooms at SMS, students work individually or in small groups. Sometimes teachers provide an introductory group lesson that corresponds to the interests and skills, students have previously mastered.
Montessori: The Missing Voice in the Education Reform Debate
Harvard Business Review
Montessori Builds Innovators
PDF Articles by Edward Kuh, Interim Head of School