Montessori is a comprehensive educational approach from birth to adulthood which is focused on hands-on, experiential learning. This philosophy encourages exposure to diverse cultures and an acquisition of respect for that diversity.
The Montessori learning environment contains specially designed, manipulative "materials for development" that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and love of learning.
Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.
Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide serving children from birth through adolescence. There are more than 4,000 private schools and more than 200 public schools in the United States, 7,000 worldwide. The Association Montessori International (AMI), founded by Maria Montessori in 1929, maintains Montessori educational principles and disseminates Montessori education throughout the world. In the United States, the American Montessori Society (AMS) serves as a national center for Montessori information. AMS is an educational society founded in 1960 whose purpose is to help children develop their potential through the educational principles of Dr. Maria Montessori.