On January 6, 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori began her career as an educator of children working with a group of fifty children 3-5 years old, in Rome. She had at her disposal an untrained assistant, a room, a bit of furniture and developmental materials to aid sense perception which she had previously used when working with mentally handicapped children. Those children who were older had to be encouraged before their interest was aroused. Once enticed to use materials, their attention was volatile. Dr. Montessori was astonished to see that the little ones, however, were intensely attracted by the materials, working spontaneously and repeatedly with them in total concentration.
Being a scientist as well as a physician, Dr. Montessori observed and responded to this phenomenon of spontaneous work generated by the apparatus. Little by little, through the experimental process of trial and error, she created a highly specialized form of apparatus which to the child afforded a source of profound satisfaction. In addition, she provided an environment suited to and respectful of the children’s inherent characteristic, “the prepared environment”.
Out of this experimental foundation, the Montessori Method evolved.
Dr. Montessori recognized that self-motivation is the only valid impulse to learning. The young child has a strong desire to understand the order in the world and a unique ability to absorb new concepts. Ability to focus on a chosen activity aids the child in developing independence, concentration and a logical orderly approach to problem solving. The Montessori materials present one concept at a time in a sequential manner, thus increasing the child's chance for successful completion and encouraging confidence and concentration. The child gains a sense of peaceful satisfaction from his or her accomplishments.