Today, Jan. 6th 2007, is the 100th anniversary of the first Montessori school ever opened. On this day 100 years ago, Maria Montessori opened the first Casa de Bambini (or Children’s House) in the slums of San Lorenzo in Italy.
Part of me wishes there were pictures (or videotape!) of that first school. But another part of me is glad to simply close my eyes and try to picture it in my mind. Surely no one around knew that a world movement was being born right there – and that 100 years later, people around the world would be celebrating that first casa.
I’ll never know what enabled Maria Montessori to set aside every previous conception of the mind of the young child and simply observe. After all, she herself did not attend a Montessori school! Her ability to see the potential of the young child unfolding itself day after day was unparalleled, and there’s no doubt that humankind owes her a great deal of thanks.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the “Maria Montessori story”. It was told to me during a Montessori training class by Kathleen Kasser, a fantastic directress and trainer in the Chicago area. I had been an assistant at Montessori school for a few months, and had heard little bits here and there about the history of the Montessori method.
I didn’t know what awaited me, though, when Kathleen sat down in the middle of our training group, tipped her head back, closed her eyes, and began at the very beginning. Her melodious voice wove the events of Maria’s life into one coherent path of curiosity and discovery. Our class was awestruck.
I hope you have a moment today to reflect on the first Children’s House, and the first time that you heard about the Montessori method and felt a spark of interest and recognition. There’s a great website you can visit with more info about the Montessori Centenary – I enjoyed browsing their pictures of Montessori classrooms around the world.
I’ll continue my series on Montessori elementary basics next time!