A visionary whose progressive method of education continues to touch the lives of children and teachers throughout the world, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was born on this day in Ancona, Italy.
"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child," she once said.
In 1894, she became the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree.
Working with mentally disabled children, she believed that children learn what they are ready to learn. Individualized education allowed students to learn successfully at their own pace. She developed the Montessori method, an informal sensory-based learning system that celebrated the imagination. Her approach also stressed self-discipline and respect for authority.
"To aid life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the basic task of the educator," she said. "Follow the child."
In January 1907, she opened her first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome’s ghetto for 3-7 year olds. Her success astounded the educational communities of her time.
Montessori discovered that creativity flourished in a natural and life-supporting environment. With her revolutionary method, children were allowed to learn through instructive play and develop at their own pace. Her approach became a progressive alternative to traditional classrooms.
"The first duty of an education is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop," she said.
Children hold the future in their hands.