Dr. Maria Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) has the distinction of being Italy's first female physician, she was an educator, a humanitarian and a pioneer in pedagogy. She has left modern educators with her legacy of the Montessori Method of education, which is being very successfully practiced in schools all over the world.
Maria's dream was to become a medical doctor, and despite strong discouragement and harassment, she succeeded. Upon graduation, Maria began working with children exhibiting mild retardation, mental illness or disability. The observations she noted of these children became fundamental in the research which ultimately led to her developing her method of education. Maria continued her education by reading and researching works by other physicians and educators. She was greatly influenced by Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Edoard Seguin.
Maria was appointed a Director of a Teacher Education program following her attendance at the 1897 National Congress of Medicine conference in Turin. The program had an attached "model classroom" where children who were deemed as "uneducable" in the normal system, flourished.
Maria continued her education and growth by enrolling in classes in philosophy and psychology. The first Casa De Bambini (the Children's House) came about in 1906, when Maria Montessori was appointed in charge of a group of children from San Lorenzo district of Rome. These children's parents were workers, who did not have the time or means to see to a proper education of their children.
Montessori designed a place for those children using the fundamentals of education, psychology and medicine she had learnt. The children were shown the basis of what is the modern Montessori education. They were to care for their environment and themselves. They used the materials developed by Maria. They were encouraged and expected to be respectful and courteous to each other and their educators. Maria observed the children in this environment. She made notes on what she has learnt and used those to further develop the materials and her method of education. She realized that the aim of the education became independence, with the teacher's role being that of the observer and guide, helping the children find their way.
Montessori Method of Education quickly spread throughout Europe and then, in 1911 to the United States, where the first Montessori school opened in New York. Montessori schools and teacher training centers continued opening throughout the world. Maria Montessori died at the age of 81 in the Netherlands. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize three times.
FSMA follows the guidelines set out by Maria Montessori. The students are encouraged to be independent in their thoughts and actions. They are being taught not just academics, but also the care of self and the environment. The FSMA classrooms are designed for the age group of children occupying them.
The Infant class is a cozy home-away-from-home. The Infants are encouraged to explore their world while being taken care of by experienced educators.
The Toddler class builds on what the Infants have learnt. The Toddlers practice their gross motor skills and are introduced to the wonders of Practical Life, where they master spooning, scooping, sweeping etc.
The Casa classroom is divided into the five main areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language and Culture (geography, history and science).
All classrooms are scaled down to the child's level. Everything is within the child's reach. The materials are designed in an attractive way to stimulate the child's interest.
The teachers act as Observers and Guides. They are not the centers of the classrooms, the children are.