Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome, College of Physicians and Surgeons, began her work with children as a physician. In later years, she became an educator and anthropologist. Studying children in all conditions throughout the world, she discovered universal principles underlying the development of all children.

Dr. Maria Montessori

Potentials

Children enter the world as unformed beings. While born only with potentialities, they possess amazing powers that will allow them to complete the difficult work of their own construction -- developing into fully formed, fulfilled and responsible individuals.​

The Human Tendencies

Dr. Montessori was able to identify distinct human tendencies, the same tendencies that have accounted for man's survival since his first appearance on earth. Exploration. Orientation. Communication. Work.  Activity. Manipulation. Order. Exactness. Repetition. Abstraction. Self perfection. She built an environment for children based upon these tendencies and allowed them to explore within it. The Montessori environment enables children to discover the world for themselves, much as the first humans on earth must have done.

Powers 

The research led her to believe that nature has given children special mental powers which aid  in their self-construction. These powers include  the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and human tendencies.

The Absorbant Mind 

The first of these powers is the Absorbent Mind. The Absorbent Mind is the ability to absorb all aspects of one's culture and civilization without effort or fatigue. This mental approach is indiscriminate, incorporating both good and bad, and disappears by the age of six

The Sensitive Periods 

Children also experience Sensitive Periods in their development. During these periods they seek certain stimuli with immense intensity, to the exclusion of all others. These are transitory  periods in which they develop specific mental functions, such as : movement, language, order, refinement of the senses and social awareness. They occur universally at approximately the same age in all children.

Purpose

The research led her to believe that nature has given children special mental powers which aid  in their self-construction. These powers include  the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, and human tendencies.

Special Materials

If a child's need for specific stimuli is not met during the sensitive period, he loses this opportunity for optimal development. Dr. Montessori devised special materials to aid children in each Sensitive Period. One of the major responsibilities for the Montessori teacher is to recognize these periods in individual children and put them in touch with the appropriate materials in the classroom environment.