Italian born Maria Montessori (1870-1952) began studying children as a medical doctor. Through scientific observation, Dr. Montessori learned that children develop cognitive skills in a nurturing environment filled with materials that stimulate their interest. She developed the Montessori Method based upon essential observable tenets:
Montessori's educational philosophy, although decades old, is recognized around the world as a progressive approach that leads to a lifetime of academic excellence. As Montessori stated, "Education is not something which the teacher does…It is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his [or her] environment."
|Individually-paced lessons that challenge children's critical thinking skills.||Pre-designed lessons in designated time block.|
|Teacher guidance to facilitate activities in a timeframe most suitable to the needs of each child.||Persistent teacher intervention to meet learning objectives in a predetermined time.|
|Cooperation and respect for each child's autonomy.||Competition with peers to complete tasks quickly.|
|Emphasis on learning that is individually suited to each child's level of development.||Emphasis on standardized learning objectives.|
|Individualized teaching for effectiveness.||Routinized learning goals for efficiency.|
|Learning that connects to children's lives, allowing children to engage in higher brain functions, such as inductive and deductive logic and synthesis of ideas.||Learning as fragmented pieces that exist for some purpose that the teacher understands.|
Children's creativity is free flowing in this prepared environment. Children can try new activities without fear of reprimand or competition from others. This sense of safety facilitates intellectual development derived from choosing activities that capture and maintain children's interest, and self esteem that comes from accomplishing self-designated learning tasks. Joy is the pervasive emotion that governs children's work.
Central to Montessori learning is the ethic of respect for self and others and respect for one's environment. Children learn the importance of approaching others politely and asking to join others in activities. These skills support a critical balance between autonomy and a cooperative community.
Choice and spontaneity, core principles of a Montessori education, are achieved in an orderly environment. Children exercise freedom within limits to facilitate a productive working environment for everyone.
The teacher supports children's learning by preparing materials and a classroom climate of trust and support between the teacher and each child as well each child toward his or her peers. The teacher determines when to introduce new materials by observing each child's progress, taking notes, and presenting new ideas to individual children or small groups of children as indicated by their development.
Literacy is essential to most aspects of school curriculum. It also presents opportunities for children to avail themselves to the knowledge and creativity of others. Hence, literacy is a critical part of the DMMS curriculum. Children learn the sounds of letters and ways that letters combine to form words. They engage in innovative activities in inventive writing. They see words in context not only in books but around the classroom as well. Children learn that reading and writing are avenues to wonderful and exciting adventures.
Math is far more than symbols and words on paper. Children learn to add and subtract by combining and taking away objects. They learn place value by seeing bead bundles that represent ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. They hold wooden spindles that can be divided into parts of a whole. Conceptual understanding of math is a natural outcome of activities that allow children to manipulate objects and see relationships. The symbolic representation on paper always follows a solid understanding of concepts derived from concrete objects.
Science is truly exciting when it is about physical properties that are learned through the experimentation of observing and testing, such as seeing the change in a stalk of celery when it is placed in a glass of red-colored water. Science allows children to label, define, and explain the processes and elements of life around them. It expands a child's vocabulary and vision of the world, indicating how the child can impact his or her environment. Children learn to articulate a question, derive theories, and then examine evidence to test their theories. The science experiments focus on impacting phenomena such as gravity, friction, motion, color and light. Experiments extend to other disciplines such as art, writing, and reading.