Bringing Montessori to Colombia, South America

This past August, I received an email from a young woman named Ana Torres. Ana and her family (including her husband and parents) work for an organization in Colombia, South America, called Healing Colombia. As Ana explained, Colombia is a country in peril. High rates of violence, conflict, and poverty make it a difficult place for many people to live. Sadly, but typically, children are the ones who suffer the most in these kinds of conditions.

The mission of Healing Colombia is to work with the Colombian government and other charitable organizations to bring education, training programs, and other resources to at-risk youth and other disadvantaged groups in Colombia.

Ana is a Montessori-trained teacher, and has been in the process of setting up two different Montessori schools – one for children of missionaries who live in Colombia, and one for children of single mothers who need reliable, quality care for their children while they work. These are children who probably would otherwise not have a school to attend.

She asked me if I could help by donating materials to her new schools. As my husband said later, she couldn’t have known it, but she was really asking the right person. Not only do I love to give Montessori materials to needy causes, but I was in the middle of re-organizing my materials for the new school year, which meant that I could sort through my boxes and bins and give her everything that I didn’t need for my own children anymore.

In the end, I filled eight large boxes with things to send to Ana. Included were printed materials (like the Continent Kit Collection!), a cutting board, laminating film, and a laminating machine; puzzles and manipulatives; classroom items like baskets, containers, dustpans, and rugs; math and science materials; and one of my CD-ROMs. In addition, I went to Target when all the school supplies were on sale and went crazy buying glue, crayons, pencils, paper, clipboards, and other great stuff.

I mailed the boxes to Ana, but due to some shipping problems (the boxes were held up by customs and red tape for four months), she didn’t receive them until December. For awhile I felt as if she was never going to get them, and we emailed back and forth lamenting the boxes’ lack of progress. When Ana finally emailed me that the boxes had arrived, I was so happy and relieved that I cried.

She’s been working hard setting up her new classrooms, so I was delighted when she emailed me some fantastic pictures the other day. Take a look at these adorable students (click on each picture for a larger view):

Cards and counters with gemstones in a silk bag, my favorite way to make this work!


One of my printed movable alphabets, and a Binomial Cube I didn’t need anymore.


Flag cards from the South America kit, naturally!


Some puzzles for winter, spring, summer, and fall.


Cards with pictures and information about animals – what a cutie!


The beginnings of a lovely classroom.


Once I got involved with the project, I decided it would be the perfect time to focus on South America (and Colombia specifically) in our homeschooling time. It was so much fun for me and my kids to research this beautiful country and learn more about life there. In any sort of geography study, I highly recommend finding a “real life” way for kids to get involved. It makes their studies come alive, and changes many lives for the better!

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13 Responses to “Bringing Montessori to Colombia, South America”

  • oreneta said at April 13th, 2008 at 11:10 pm :

    There is an organisation in Africa that will send local African women to London to be trained in AMI, they then go back and set up programs in their home country, and there is a process for donations of material as well. They have also sent some of the women to become teacher trainers I think, there are now over 100 schools in that region…I will look for more information, maybe something like that could get going there as well…in time.

  • Lori Bourne said at April 14th, 2008 at 4:04 am :

    Wow, that sounds fantastic! I’ve had the privilege of donating materials to a school in Uganda and one in Latvia. I love to see Montessori spreading around the world!

  • Ed said at April 14th, 2008 at 6:49 am :

    I am a Montessori guide. My wife teaches high school math at international schools (we’re currently in the Philippines). We’re interested in South America, but I have been unable to find Montessori schools in the region. I am very interested in contacting the schools in Columbia you mentioned. Would you be kind enough to share her contact info with me?

  • Lori Bourne said at April 14th, 2008 at 7:28 am :

    You can find info by Googling “south american montessori schools” or the name of a specific country or city and “montessori”.

  • Anonymous said at October 2nd, 2008 at 10:28 pm :

    I am curious if it is hard to open up a school in Colombia and how much it would cost. My hubby is there for med research and I was thinking of going too. Does anyone have any resources or information?

  • Emily said at October 4th, 2008 at 12:52 am :

    If you are interesting in starting a school I would recommend you contact AMI (Association Montessori Internationale). They are looking for partners in South America and have been establishing schools since 1929. You may also find some useful resources from NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers Association).

  • Lori Bourne said at October 21st, 2008 at 5:43 pm :

    Thank you for the helpful reply, Emily!

  • Viviana said at June 18th, 2012 at 3:39 pm :

    Hi, I am starting a new business in Michigan with my friend Jill. You can take a look the website and find out what this is about.
    We are trying to work with a public school here, a Montessori school, to be able to implement the Spanish language in their classes.
    We are very excited to work with them and we would like to have a guide about where to find the materials in Spanish, or how a Montessori approach works to acquire a new language.
    What is the best way to teach a language in this style learning?
    What is the best setting to teach a new language?
    I am looking forward to hear from you any suggestion or idea.
    Thanks a lot for your help to this Colombian children where I come from too.

  • Lori Bourne said at June 18th, 2012 at 4:16 pm :

    Hi, Viviana! We have some Spanish Montessori materials here: Montessori for Everyone – Spanish. We do not have plans to make more at this time.

    You can Google “spanish montessori materials” and find other companies that offer them too.

    To be honest with you, I do not think that the Montessori method is the best way to teach a foreign language, especially with today’s online and computer resources. I recommend having the children in your class use Rosetta Stone software to learn Spanish. The Spanish materials we developed are primarily for children who already speak Spanish.

  • Catherine Castro said at September 9th, 2012 at 4:52 pm :

    HI I am very interested in the child centered education and Montessori education seems to provide it. I am Colombian and I am going to school to be a teacher, but I am not very happy because they are teaching me all about the public school system and not how to focus in what a child really needs to learn and how to unfold learning in a child. I am almostgraduating a community colle and I will have to trasfer soon but I am not looking forward to doing so. I am planing to go back to my native country Cali, Colombia once I’m done with school, I wanted to know if there is a bachilers degree that I could pursue that didnt have to do anything with traditional type of learning. I will also like to know where in colombia montessori schools are planning to be started, because I will love to work in one of them. I know perfect spanish and English and I believe in nontraditional ways of learning, is the perfect combination!

    I really hope I get a responce from someone!!!

    Thank you.

  • Lori Bourne said at September 9th, 2012 at 6:29 pm :

    Hi, Catherine! While I did have the wonderful privilege of donating materials to a school in Colombia, I don’t know anything about Montessori schools there. There are online Montessori training centers where you can learn about Montessori from anywhere in the world (two I recommend are United Montessori Association and North American Montessori Center – Google to find their websites).

  • Catherine Castro said at September 10th, 2012 at 7:14 pm :

    Hi Lori, I thank you for the information! I was doing some research yesterday and found Liceo Montessori in Cali and Palmira, Colombia but when I was reading their vision and their method of studying they seem different from the Montessori schools here.
    Thant was a bit confusing.

  • Ariana said at December 27th, 2012 at 5:55 pm :

    Hola Catherine!

    Yo soy “guia” Montessori en los EE.UU y recien estuve en Colombia, tu hermoso pais! En Bogota, hay Una Escuela Montessori Britanica y el siguiente son unos links (I am a Montessori “guide” in the U.S. and recently I was in Colombia, a beautiful country! In Bogota, there is a Montessori British School, you can Google to find more info.

    Tal vez sabran sobre el movimiento Montessori en todo el pais? O si estas por la gran cuidad puedes ir a conocer!

    Estoy tambien interesada en abrir una escuela bilingue muy alternativa basado en los principios de Montessori en Colombia o algun pais en SudAmerica…nos mantenemos en contacto!! Mucha suerte!!

    (Maybe you will know about the Montessori movement across the country? Or if you’re in the big city can get to know!

    I am also interested in opening a bilingual school, very alternative based on Montessori principles in Colombia or any country in South America … keep in touch! Lots of luck!)