Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was born in 1870, and as a child fell in love with science. She went to school at the University of Rome, she heavily focused on pediatrics and psychiatry and in 1896 was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome as a doctor of medicine.
After graduation, she continued her research with the school’s psychiatric unit. As part of her work, she visited orphanages in Rome where she observed children in their natural state of learning, observations which were fundamental to her future educational work. Her primary focus at this time was to uncover the secrets of childhood learning and to identify the key elements associated with positive learning.
In 1906 Montessori was invited to oversee the care and education of a group of children of working parents in a new apartment building for low-income families in the San Lorenzo district in Rome. Montessori was interested in applying her work and methods to children in the field, and she accepted. She opened her first school enrolling 50 or 60 children between the ages of two or three and six or seven.
In this first classroom, Montessori observed behaviors in these young children which formed the foundation of her educational method. Given free choice of activity, the children showed more interest in practical activities and Montessori’s materials than in toys provided for them. Over time, she saw a spontaneous self-discipline emerge.