Maria Montessori's 142nd birth anniversary has become the subject of the latest Google doodle. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator, best known for the philosophy of education which bears her name. Her educational methods are in use today in public and private schools throughout the world.
The Google doodle itself represents various tools that form an integral part of Montessori education methods.
Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her family later moved to Rome in 1875, where she was enrolled in a public elementary school when she was 6. Montessori was not a particular brilliant student early on, but that during her teens. She graduated from the technical school Regia Scuola Tecnica Michelangelo Buonarroti at the age of 20 and decided to study medicine further on, which was unheard of for females at the time.
After completing a pre-qualification course and overcoming a lot of hurdles, Maria Montessori enrolled for the medical program at the University of Rome in 1893. Here troubles didn't end there, as she faced discrimination from fellow students and faculty because of her gender. But Montessori carried on, winning an academic prize in her first year, and later securing a position as a hospital assistant, gaining early clinical experience. In her last two years she studied paediatrics and psychiatry, and worked in the paediatric consulting room and emergency service, becoming an expert in paediatric medicine.
Montessori graduated from the University of Rome in 1896 and in so doing became the first female to earn the distinction of a doctor of medicine.
In 1897 Maria Montessori was accepted as a voluntary assistant at the University's psychiatric clinic. As part of her work, she visited asylums in Rome where she observed children with mental disabilities, observations which were fundamental to her future educational work.
These observations translated into what are now known as the essential values of Montessori education around the globe:
- Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 9 years old by far the most common
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A Constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
- Specialised educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
As of today, Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide.
Maria Montessori also did a lot of work in India, and legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore had founded many "Tagore-Montessori" schools in India.
Montessori died of a cerebral haemorrhage in the Netherlands, at the age of 81.