Dr Maria Montessori began her career as an educator of children working with a group of fifty children, three-to-five year olds on January 6th, 1907 in the city of Rome. She had at her disposal and 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 encourage before their interest was aroused. Once enticed to use the 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 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 characteristics, “the prepared environment.”
Out of this experimental foundation, the Montessori Method of education evolved. Observing the quality of interaction between the children and their environment, and the choice or rejection of materials placed at the children’s disposal, Dr Montessori formulated a comprehensive science of human life in all its aspects and manifestations.
The present range of Montessori materials has in effect been selected by the children of the world in response to their inner directives. Invariably, children of all races, socio cultural and economic backgrounds have found an irresistible appeal in these materials and continue to do so after nearly a century.
When children come into the world their first function is to adapt to their environment so that they may become a member of the human group to which they uniquely belong. The mechanism by which this occurs is one of absorption of all the elements surrounding them, obeying vital inner directives common to all children.
The first elements to be perceived and absorbed into the child’s very being are the numerous levels of order prevailing in their home. The daily activities undertaken by adults in establishing, maintaining and embellishing the living environment; the care of others and the care of the self; the ceremony and ritual of hospitality; these are all intensely fascinating to the child because they are aesthetic, logical and understandable.
If the child is welcome and well received, its home environment will become a source of endless attraction, the urge to partake in the daily activities of its family will be strong, and the impulse to become an independent, participating member of its group will be vigorous. Independence and participation can only be achieved if the child is given the freedom to obey the inner directives which impel it to interact with its environment in the process of its self construction.
The exercise of PRACTICAL LIFE, provide a sane and wholesome range of activities which allow the children to develop control and co-ordination of movement, awareness of their environment, orderly thought patterns, independent work habits, responsibility, and many other characteristics which can only be attained by spontaneous, purposeful work.