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Saturday, September 1, 2012
Google Doodle Celebrates Educator Maria Montessori
The drawing (below, right) features some of the tools that form the basis of Montessori's educational methods, which emphasize hands-on, individualized learning within mixed age groups in a child-friendly setting.
Montessori was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy and early on rejected the traditional gender roles of her time, choosing to attend technical school, which few girls did, according to her NNDB biography. Upon graduation, she continued her education at the Regio Istituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, where she excelled and developed a passion for the biological sciences.
In 1890, she applied to University of Rome but was denied entrance to the medical program because of her gender. Instead, she enrolled to study physics, mathematics, and the natural sciences and was eventually allowed to study medicine. In 1896, she presented her thesis to an all-male board and they were so impressed that they awarded her a full medical degree, making her the first female doctor in Italy.
After working in insane asylums with mentally handicapped children, in 1904 she began re-engineering the field of children's education. She believed that all children have an inner drive to learn, and that children learn best when in a safe, hands-on learning environment.
Montessori also found that children help teach each other when put into groups with other kids of their own age range. She believed that teachers should pay close attention to students, not the other way around.
Her early efforts were so successful that she amassed a large following of parents and teachers who wanted to learn her methods. She later gained support from Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, and Alexander Graham Bell, who founded the Montessori Educational Association, headquartered in Washington D.C.
Montessori died in 1952 in The Netherlands. Her methods are still in use today in public and private schools all over the world.
Google's co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both went through the Montessori education system and have credited it for their success.
"I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world, doing things a bit different," Page said in an interview with ABC (below).
For more from Angela, follow her on Twitter @amoscaritolo.