The Worthington Nursery School - (a MONTESSORI learning environment)
The Montessori Method
Dr. Maria Montessori, a physician and an educator, was born in Italy in 1870.  The first woman to receive a medical degree in Italy, she was a pioneer in the field of early childhood education.  Maria Montessori is know today for the unique method of teaching called the Montessori Method of education for young children.
What is the Montessori Method?
The Montessori method of education is a philosophy and model of educating young children from the ages of  two through sixteen.  Behind the philosophy is the concept that every child is unique, and that children need to be respected.  "The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life.  It is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity.  It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child.  Its flexibility provides a matrix within which each individual child's inner directives freely guide the child toward wholesome growth."
The main four areas of the Montessori method are:
Dr. Montessori observed that children learn through their senses, visual, auditory, tactile and gustatory.  She believed that learning must be concrete before it can be abstract, she therefore developed materials that were designed "to educate and refine the child's senses; each targeting an isolated sense, as well as being self-correcting.
The practical life aspect of the Montessori curriculum teaches the child to:
Care for self - lessons are taught in hand washing, nose blowing, and buttoning, fastening, tying, zipping with frames.  Each frame is designed to teach a different skill by isolating that skill on the frame.
Control of movement - exercises such as "walking the line", the silent game, the bell game and the balancing beam games are taught to the children
Grace and Courtesy - lessons are taught in manners, passing the object correctly, answering the phone and conversation.
Care of the environment - lessons in caring for plants  and animals, washing the table, sweeping and cleaning spills.
Dr.  Montessori believed that the young child has a natural tendency to think in mathematical terms; to count, to measure, to recognize shape and symmetry.  She  designed materials, the number rods, number boards, number tiles, sandpaper numbers, games and beads, and exercises to provide the child with a simple, clear understanding of the mathematical concept being taught.
Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that during the first six years of life, a period she called the "sensitive period", that children are particularly sensitive to language acquisition.  Before a child is able read and write, they must acquire physical, mental and social skills. 
Physical - coordination of hand-eye work, balance, recognizing size and shapes, ability to concentrate and focus.
Mental - learning the sounds that each letter makes, the ability to absorb and use language.
Social - verbal communication in the home and with peer group.
The Montessori materials designed for this sensitive period - sandpaper letters, the knobbed cylinders - facilitate the acquiring of the needed skills that are a prerequisite for learning to read and write.
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