The “Montessori Method” was born out of
the revolutionary work of Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. Graduating
as Italy’s first female physician in 1896, Dr. Montessori was already a
woman ahead of her time. But it was her subsequent work with the children
of Rome’s institutions and slums that would ultimately bring her world
renown. In 1907, Dr. Montessori opened her first Casa dei Bambini
(Children’s House), applying to children of normal intelligence the educational
methods and materials she had originally developed for special-needs
children. Within just a few years, the unprecedented success of this first
Children’s House launched a worldwide revolution in childhood education.
principle upon which Montessori’s methods evolved is that children are
complete beings unto themselves. They are not just adults waiting to
happen, but rather, children are created as whole beings with innate
intelligence worthy of respect. Some of the concepts developed to support
this principle are:
- Child Centered
Dr. Montessori understood the simple yet profound truth that children
teach themselves. Education should be centered on the child as opposed
to the teacher, making it more important for teachers to observe
children than for children to passively observe teachers. This is
reflected in the Montessori classroom where teachers are referred to as
Giving children freedom of movement and freedom of choice is key to
stimulating their natural curiosity and motivation. Dr. Montessori
created a child-centered “prepared environment” that allows a great deal
of freedom within well-defined limits. Faced with these reasonable
boundaries, children are free to engage imagination, creativity, and
Dr. Montessori determined that the senses must be engaged for intellect
to develop. Therefore, imaginative, hands-on materials specifically
designed to stimulate sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste are integral
to the Montessori Method. These materials prepare children for learning
by capturing their attention and initiating concentration. Each set of
materials progresses from simple to complex, concrete to abstract.
Development of sensorial skills also provides children an increased
awareness of the world around them.
The Montessori materials were originally designed to be self-correcting,
thus allowing children to identify and solve their own problems and move
forward at their own pace. This serves to develop a child’s focus and
concentration while simultaneously empowering them with a sense of
satisfaction derived from their own accomplishments. A strong sense of
independence also serves as an important precursor to self-esteem.
These ideas serve as
the cornerstones of the foundation upon which the Montessori Method is built.
“Help me to help myself” is one way that Dr. Montessori tried to concisely
express her basic discovery about childhood, its developmental needs, and the
child’s unique connection to human development.
School of Oak Ridge is dedicated to honoring the true spirit of the
Montessori Method by providing a well-prepared environment in which each
child’s unique nature is honored and respected. To that end, MSOR
strives to foster the integration of each child’s physical, mental,
emotional, social, and spiritual being to become fully developed,
self-confident, and independent individuals.
Montessori Method is based on specifically identified “sensitive periods” in
the child’s development, children begin school between the ages of 2 ½ to 3
years and remain through kindergarten. Montessori classrooms are designed for
this three-year age mix to maximize both individual and social development.
Independence and interdependence are cultivated as the more experienced
children share what they have already learned with those new to the group.
Each child’s unique personality is encouraged and each child is respected as
an important member of a community.
The busy, purposeful
activity of a Montessori classroom frequently amazes those unfamiliar with
it, but much like a beehive, there is a very evident order to what initially
looks like chaos. By giving children opportunities to engage in spontaneous,
meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult, they are free to
respond to their natural drive to explore and experience their surroundings,
thus encouraging their inherent love of learning.
The Morning and
Extended-Day Programs include opportunities for exploration in the following
- Practical Life
The practical life activities
give the child the opportunity to use his hands and put him in touch
with reality and do tasks for himself. These tasks allow the child to
learn the common practices of his culture, grow his coordination and
movement, and to practice the highest level of movement, grace. The
materials for this area are all real items which are also found outside
of the classroom in other parts of life, such as cleaning tools,
gardening tools or kitchen tools.
- Sensorial Materials
The Montessori classroom includes a variety of unique manipulative
(hands-on) materials. Each of these tools is specifically designed to
encourage development of a child’s senses by stimulating and refining
one or more of the sensory areas. This enables children to build
cognitive skills by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, and
exploring the physical properties of their environment. As children
gradually integrate each sensorial skill, they build the foundation from
which reading, writing, and math abilities evolve.
- Language Development
Language opportunities are
abundant in the classroom as children engage in social conversation,
hear stories, and learn poetry. Montessori materials such as sandpaper
letters and the moveable alphabet further engage a variety of senses
enabling children to begin linking sounds with symbols. Fine motor skills
are developed through pencil work with metal insets, setting the stage
for writing skills which often precede reading in the Montessori
- Science & Art
As an extension of the sensorial and language activities, the academic
curriculum also includes geography, biology, botany, zoology, art, and
music. As children learn about people and cultures in other countries,
they come to feel a connection to and respect for the global community.
Additionally, lessons and experiences with nature inspire a deeper
understanding of and reverence for all life. Art and music activities
further encourage sensorial integration and creativity.
Again building on sensorial and language skills, children begin to grasp
basic math concepts by manipulating concrete materials. Over time,
children develop a solid understanding of the math principles that lay
the foundation for later abstract reasoning and problem-solving
capabilities. It is not uncommon for the kindergarten children to
develop a firm grasp of the decimal system simply by “playing” with the
Montessori bead chains and other math materials.
- Prepared Environment
The Montessori style of
education utilizes a carefully prepared environment for the child. The
Montessori prepared environment is one that is calm, ordered, and
prepares the child for the rest of his or her life. The classroom is
aesthetically pleasing, organized, and child sized as well as being
completely functional for the developmental and physical needs of the
child. Another important element of the Montessori environment or
classroom, is the mixed age community of the children. The variety of
ages provides ample means for social interaction and encourages the
transmission and skill from one child to another.
Enrichment Program is offered for the convenience of working parents because
young children need a consistent, stable, and nurturing after-school
environment to further support their development. Fostering the Montessori
philosophies of respect for the child and independence provides a sense of
continuity to their day. This also provides an opportunity for children to
integrate Montessori concepts into their life outside of the classroom.
Parent Education is offered on several evenings throughout the school year
and provides parents with opportunities to learn more about the Montessori
Method, share ideas about raising children, and become better acquainted with
the school staff and each other. Parent Education also helps establish a
spirit of trust, cooperation, and satisfaction – benefits which are less
tangible but far more enduring.