Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the first educators to recognize the importance of early childhood development. “The most important period in life,” she noted in her best-selling book, The Absorbent Mind, “is not the age of university studies, but the first one, from the period of birth to age six.”
Born in 1870, Montessori was the first female graduate of the University of Rome Medical School. She began her career as a physician and scientist. But her true breakthrough came in 1907 when she started working with disadvantaged children in the slums of San Lorenzo, on the outskirts of Rome. Montessori realized that allowing children to learn through materials of their own choosing, rather than techniques imposed by a teacher, helped them develop an eagerness for life-long learning. Montessori’s successes became well-known, and her techniques were adapted by educators around the world. Later in life Montessori traveled the world delivering lectures about her work, authored numerous books detailing her educational philosophy, and personally trained teachers in the educational methods she pioneered. Today, Montessori schools flourish on six continents and continue to lead the world in child-centered education.