The Montessori approach was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the late 1890’s while attending the University of Rome. Her philosophy arose from observations on how children learn; she discovered children need little incentive to try new activities due to their natural curiosity. In 1907 she opened her first school called the Children’s House, with 50 – 60 children mostly from the slums of Florence, Italy.
Due to their upbringing, many of her children were fearful and malnourished; to make them more comfortable, Dr. Montessori carefully prepared the environment with materials and furniture that were suitable for their size and skill level. Through the use of her methods and interaction, her children developed extremely high intellectual and social ability.
In 1911, the Montessori method made it’s way to the United States where it enjoyed a surge in interest in American publications. However, by 1914 the educational establishment had successfully limited its spread and it took until the 1960’s for growth to restart. Today, it is estimated over 20,000 schools practice the Montessori method throughout the world; and several public school systems across the United States have adopted the Montessori method as their primary teaching strategy.
Maria Montessori continued to refine her ideas until her death in 1952.