ST. John the Baptist What is Montessori?

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What is Montessori?

Montessori education is a scientific method of education developed by Dr. Maria Montessori over one hundred years ago in Italy. It is based on Dr. Montessori's belief that children go through very specific developmental levels, during each of which they exhibit different learning characteristics and different needs. Montessori believed that a child's educational setting must change at each developmental level and should correlate with the psychological characteristics of that plane of development.


In the Montessori educational setting each learning environment is richly prepared for the characteristics of that specific stage of development and includes certain foundations of Montessori principles. Every Montessori environment includes a 3-year mixed age grouping. This produces a community of learners who learn from each other as well as from the adults in the environment.


The Montessori method is based on two simple truths: That children must be respected, and that children spontaneously love learning.


These principles and careful observation form a child-centered method that Montessori called an “education for life.” Its goal is the finest development of the whole human being – emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually – toward the nurturing of peaceful, caring citizens.


The Montessori prepared environment honors the child and the beauty and order essential for him to work at his natural, individual and optimal level. Carefully designed Montessori materials attract the interest of the student, while at the same time teaching an important, isolated concept for the child’s discovery. The child constructs her own reality and awareness, at first concretely through hands-on manipulation, until patterns are internalized and she discovers the next level of abstraction. The integrated Montessori curriculum shows the child how every aspect of learning is connected and intertwined. The Montessori educator understands and guides the child without interfering in her natural ability to teach herself and become an independent, contributing member in the “cosmic plan.”


The students are encouraged to independently explore the materials and activities. The teacher is there to guide them, giving individual and small group presentations. There is a high interest level in the materials and in the presentations. Each child's independent exploration leads to natural learning as opportunities to follow each student's passions abound.


Graduates of Montessori education are generally creative, curious and independent world citizens who are committed to life-long learning. Their experience in a Montessori classroom encourages a deep respect for themselves, others and the world around them.


The key aspects of Montessori education include:

  • A prepared environment in which all furniture and materials are sized for children to be able to work independently. This environment is beautiful and orderly, and provides a range of hands-on, experiential learning materials.
  • A Montessori-trained adult who understands the developmental needs of children.
  • "Freedom within limits": children are free to move about the classroom and choose the work they want to do, as long as they are being respectful of each other and the materials. Not working in not an option.
  • A focus on peaceful, respectful interactions amongst children and adults, and an emphasis on building community within the classroom and the school.
  • A belief that children are naturally driven to learn and discover, and that each child is unique and learns at his or her own pace. We offer activities and lessons that stimulate children's interest, appropriately challenge them, and allow them to pursue their passions.

Research demonstrates that children in Montessori programs:

  • significantly out-perform peers in math and science skills
  • have superior performance at age 5 on measurements of reading and mathematical thinking skills
  • demonstrate superior executive functioning at age 5
  • demonstrate more positive peer interaction at age 12
  • demonstrate better social cognition at age 12
  • employ greater justice reasoning in social problem solving at age 12

Montessori education goes far beyond academics – it instills in students skills that are critical for success later in life. Montessori teaches children to:

  • work cooperatively
  • delay gratification
  • set goals 
  • be self-directed
  • organize their time
  • see a project or goal through to its completion
  • resolve conflicts peacefully
  • appreciate and value differences among individuals
  • imagine a role for themselves within an interdependent community

Research shows that brain development and intelligence are dependent upon experience in the environment and purposeful movement. Children who are in Montessori environments are encouraged to move and to use the didactic materials that build coordination, a sense of order, and problem solving skills.

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