Dr Maria Montessori was one of the most influential pioneers in early childhood education in the 20th century. Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori’s original interest was medicine. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School and her work as a doctor slowly moved her towards education. Working with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged children in Rome, Montessori utilised methodical observation to identify the individual needs of each child and discovered that children teach themselves. They build their minds by interacting with the environment and science agrees with her today.
Montessori’s goal was to support the development of the holistic child by helping them to develop skills for life. She believed that three fundamental principles needed to be followed to support these developments. Firstly the needs of the child must be identified through observations; the environment must be carefully prepared taking into account the child’s interests and stage of development; and the adults must be knowledgeable about the needs of the child in order to be the dynamic link between the child and the prepared environment.
Maria Montessori left the legacy of a method of education which combines a practical approach based on a carefully planned learning environment with a philosophy centered on the idea of freedom for the child. Montessori believed that all children are intrinsically motivated to learn and they absorb knowledge without effort when provided with the right kind of activities at the right time in their development.
At Living Spring Montessori, we recognise the uniqueness and potential of each child and we offer an environment rich in opportunities for exploration and discovery. In following the philosophy of Maria Montessori we concentrate on developing in our children a true love of learning. Through observations, we are able to develop a better understanding of the needs and interests of each unique child, and this allows us to plan activities and prepare our environment to challenge and inspire the children.
Our aim is to serve the immediate needs of individual children in our care, whilst providing them with a foundation and skills for the future.
The children are offered a wide range of activities to cover all aspects of child development – intellectual, physical and social. Although each activity is a complete piece of work within itself, the activities are interrelated. Much care is taken to provide the children with achievable challenges throughout their time at the nursery so that their self-esteem is nurtured and they are encouraged to even greater learning and exploration. The activities offered in a Montessori classroom are grouped into the following:
The young child is attracted to activities that he sees going on around him and that give him independence and control of his own life. The objective of this area is for the child to develop concentration, independence, co-ordination of movement, mastery of skills, and order needed for everyday life. Practical life exercises are real life activities, which are completed using fully functional child sized objects. For example the glass jugs used for pouring not only teaches children measurement and wrist movement needed for pouring but also how to handle glass materials. Practical life activities aid children to be independent, develop concentration, and the skills needed to do things for themselves.
Our senses are the ‘points of contact’ through which we learn and absorb information about the world around us. Sensorial activities help train the senses with the use of carefully designed materials which reflect qualities of the environment such as colour, size, shape, texture, sound and weight to name a few. Children learn to sort, order classify and categorise with the help of the sensorial materials, which prepare them for later academic work. For example, working with the binomial square for instance prepares a child for future understanding of algebra.
Mathematics is explored throughout the Montessori environment but the designated mathematical area of the class provides the children with opportunities to gain concrete understanding of quantity though the manipulation of the materials. For example a child who counts out 4 counters will have a better understanding of the quantity than a child who is given a piece of paper and asked to count and colour 4 ducks. Working with objects, using their hands, makes a lasting impression in their brain and leads to a clearer understanding of abstract concepts.
The environment is prepared to make it interesting and exciting for the children so as to encourage them to talk about what they see and do. We start by teaching our children the sounds in words, and this gradually and rapidly progresses to word building, full recognition of words, and eventually total reading. Writing comes as part of the child’s natural desire to express his or her new knowledge and nearly always precedes reading. Within the Montessori environment, we have activities that prepare the child for writing. Reading and writing materials are placed in many areas to encourage children to use them. There are many opportunities for the children to listen to stories, one another and adults. A quiet area is provided which is always available for looking at books or listening to stories or to just enjoy silence.
Within the Montessori environment, children explore and develop their knowledge of people of the world, the environment and nature. We encourage children to collect items of interest to display on the constantly changing nature table. Children gain an awareness of the world around them by exploring countries, customs, foods, climates, language, plants and animals. Extensive work is done to ensure the children explore many cultures from around the world. We have the globe, puzzle maps, flag maps and many other materials available for teaching the names of continents and countries around the world. There is much emphasis on the plant and animal kingdom and children are encouraged to foster a love and appreciation for all living things.