The title Peter Sims chose for his article in the WSJ Ideas Market blog certainly caught some attention. The Montessori Mafia made reference to several innovative people who attribute their individual success in part to their early Montessori Education. Sims mentions Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and video game creator Will Wright.
There were over 130 comments posted, a portion of mine follows:
• In the beginning, Dr. Montessori worked with the “unteachable” children in a sanitarium and the children of the very poor. This proved to be a useful laboratory as she used her scientific method of observation to deconstruct the basics of how individuals learn. Her students surpassed the results of children in the traditional classroom of Italy in 1907. Montessori then continued her work with tenement children who were left to their own devices while their parents worked. Soon, the children were teaching their parents how to read.
• Maria Montessori brought her method to the US in 1913 between the Great Wars and was hailed as what would be considered a “super-star” in today’s terms. Her method was supported by then president, Woodrow Wilson, and was selected to be implemented in the NYC public school system. How different things may have been if this had come to pass. NYC’s first Montessori public charter school will begin in the fall of 2012 in the Bronx, NYC.
• A premise of the Montessori philosophy is to teach the whole child; to create a supportive environment where the child’s natural passions and curiosity are continually being challenged. In this setting mistakes are welcome and considered opportunities to learn.
• Montessori classroom materials are carefully laid out to assist children in purposeful actions that are self directed. The entire philosophy is child-centered from the size of the furniture to the daily schedule. Montessori teaching methods build from the tactile/concrete to the abstract, from the sensory to the cognitive, from large motor skills to small, problem solving in all subject matters including math, science, reading and inter-personal relationships is promoted.
• Children are taught in multi-aged groups. Children are able to find their place in the continuum of learning. In some curriculum areas they can excel and move forward and in other curriculum areas they can spend extra time if needed. The success of the Montessori approach is that it utilizes the natural way we are wired from birth to actively be engaged in learning as opposed to being passive in a teacher-directed environment often found in traditional education systems.
• The Montessori method has been in use for over 100 years and many of the methods have been incorporated into “traditional” classroom curriculums and has influenced the educational approach of leading private schools like Dalton and Caedmon.
• Montessori programs can be found throughout the world. For this reason, many Montessori classrooms are very international in appearance. Diversity of culture, economics, and family structure add to the universal appeal and create a multitude of learning opportunities. Montessori educated students are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century as global citizens.