A Remarkable Lady
Maria Montessori had first been trained as an engineer, the first Italian woman to do so. She then became the first woman doctor in Italy, and later studied experimental psychology. Her scientific studies went well with her acute observation skills and her drive to experiment. When asked to work with the "idiot" children of the Roman slums, she depended on the teachings of educational greats, such as Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard and Edouard Seguin to guide her in developing activities for them.
She provided a variety of apparatuses that required the use of the hands and manipulation, as well as movement. Educating the children through multiple senses, in a concrete fashion, allowed these supposedly retarded children to perform as well as the normal children in a public school exam. The experiment then became, what would happen if these techniques were used with so-called "normal" children?
Maria Montessori opened her first Children's House in 1907. More soon followed in Rome, then throughout Europe, Asia, etc. Great prominence in the United States came in the 1960s, and continues to this day. Her original program was designed for children ages three to seven. Now, Montessori programs are available from infant through high school ages. Unfortunately, not all Montessori schools are created the same, as there are no copyrights on the name, and no formal organization truly regulating their operation.