To Commemorate her 146th Birth Anniversary there will be a Eucharist Celebration at St. Bridget’s Auditorium tomorrow (Tuesday, 27) at 2.00 p.m. The Celebrant will be Rev. Fr.Anslem Shiran Fernando
he 31st of August 1870 was a memorable day in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy. Maria Montessori, the greatest educationist of our times was born. Her father, Alessandro, was an accountant in the civil service, and her mother, Renilde Stoppani, was well educated and had a passion for reading. It was probably this background that encouraged Maria to break all barriers and become the first lady Dr. in Italy.
Maria was an extraordinary child and developed into a young woman, who knew exactly what she wanted. She was determined to enter medical school and become a doctor. Her father opposed this, as medical school was only for male students. Maria was refused entry by the head of the school. She was undeterred, apparently ending the unsuccessful interview with the professor by saying, “I know I shall become a doctor”.
Whilst working at the san Giovani Hospital she was asked to represent Italy at the International Congress for Women’s Rights in Berlin, and in her speech to the Congress she developed a thesis for social reform, arguing that women should be entitled to equal wages with men. A reporter covering the event asked her how her patients responded to a female doctor. She replied, “… they know intuitively when someone really cares about them.… “
During this period Rome was growing very rapidly, and in the fever of speculative development, some construction companies were going bankrupt, leaving unfinished building projects, which quickly attracted squatters.
One such development, which stood in the San Lorenzo district, was rescued by a group of wealthy bankers who undertook a basic restoration, dividing larger apartments into small units for impoverished working families. With parents out at work all day, the younger children wreaked havoc on the newly-completed buildings. This prompted the developers to approach Dr. Montessori to provide ways of occupying the children during the day to prevent further damage to the premises.
Dr. Montessori grasped the opportunity of working with children and, bringing some of the educational materials she had developed, she established her first Casa dei Bambini or ‘Children’s House’, which opened on the 6th of January 1907.
A small opening ceremony was organised, Dr. Montessori was known to have said: “I had a strange feeling which made me announce emphatically that here was the opening of an undertaking of which the whole world would one day speak.” She put many different activities and materials into the children’s environment. What Montessori came to realise was that children, who were placed in an environment where activities were designed to support their natural development had the power to educate themselves. In 1914 she wrote, “I did not invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live”.
By the autumn of 1908 there were five Case dei Bambini operating, four in Rome and one in Milan. Children in a Casa dei Bambini made extraordinary progress, and soon 5-year-olds were writing and reading. News of Montessori’s new approach spread rapidly, and visitors arrived to see for themselves how she was achieving such results. Within a year the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland began transforming its kindergartens into Case dei Bambini, and the spread of the new educational approach began.
In the summer of 1909 Dr. Montessori gave the first training course on the “Montessori Method “ to around 100 students. Her notes from this period became her first book, published that same year in Italy, which appeared in translation in the United States in 1912 as the Montessori Method, reaching second place on the U.S. nonfiction bestseller list. Soon afterwards it was translated into 20 different languages. It has become a major influence in the field of education.
"In 1944 Dr. Maria Montessori was invited by the Colombo Teacher’s Association to visit Sri Lanka and conducted a training programme for teachers. Since then the Good Shepherd Maria Montessori Training Centre , located at St. Bridget’s Convent Colombo.7, has carried on her legacy"
In 1939 Mario her son and Dr. Montessori embarked on a journey to India to give a 3-month training course in Madras followed by a lecture tour. Dr. Montessori was well looked after in India, where she met Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore. Together they trained over a thousand Indian teachers.
In 1944 Dr. Maria Montessori was invited by the Colombo Teacher’s Association to visit Sri Lanka and conducted a training programme for teachers. Since then the Good Shepherd Maria Montessori Training Centre , located at St. Bridget’s Convent Colombo.7, has carried on her legacy. Her books have been translated into Sinhala and the Training Course is conducted in English as well as Sinhala. Examiners from Montessori Internationale are present at the exams and the Diploma’s awarded are endorsed by Montessori Internationale ,Amsterdam.
1947 Dr. Montessori, now 76, addressed UNESCO on the theme ‘Education and Peace’. In 1949 she received the first of three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her last public engagement was in London in 1951 when she attended the 9th International Montessori Congress. On 6th May 1952, at a holiday home in the Netherlands, she died in the company of her son, Mario, to whom she bequeathed the legacy of her work.
In the words of Dr. Montessori - “We recognise the immense power, the unconscious forces existing in the child on the threshold of life. For many years we have been proclaiming that it is necessary to educate the child from the moment of birth. We have traced, through study and practical experience, the ideal path leading to the world of children, of these beings whose social status has as yet not been determined, whose rights have not been recognised and who nevertheless represent the men of today. “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”( Dr. Maria Montessori - Education and Peace.)
"She put many different activities and materials into the children’s environment. What Montessori came to realise was that children, who were placed in an environment where activities were designed to support their natural development had the power to educate themselves. "