Why Montessori Methods Succeed
Maria Montessori was a most remarkable woman--of that there is no disagreement. Born in Italy in 1870 she became an advocate for education of mentally disabled children and she developed teaching methods that are in use today. In use because they work. More about that in a moment.
First, understand that as a strong-willed woman in a male dominated culture she would not be denied the right to follow her interests. An excellent student, she broke tradition by earning a degree in physics and mathematics and then decided to pursue medicine, where, despite hostility and harassment, she became one of Italy's earliest female medical doctors. Her interests in pediatrics and psychiatry coincided with an opportunity to work for five years with mentally disadvantaged children where her methods enabled the "slow" children to catch up scholastically with children the same age in about a year. Her innovative methods worked!
Throughout her life she studied childhood development with the goal of finding teaching methods that would allow each child to flourish to his or her maximum level. She was an diligent reader who took a careful, scientific approach to her studies. The results of her teaching approach astounded many, and saw widespread enthusiasm across Europe in the 19teens. In America, after an initial surge of enthusiasm, interest faded, in part because of dismissive writing against it by John Dewey. It has expanded again in the U.S. since the 1960s.
At this time, there are 22,000 Montessori-based elementary schools in 110 countries, including many in the U.S. There is no doubt that her emphasis on hands-on learning using all senses is effective. Activities using her methods are available for use in Christian education of children.
Montessori methods succeed where others fail because (in my language, not hers) they first "wake up" the mind so that the person is ready and eager to receive and act upon new information.
The research done by Diana Walters (which used Remembering the Life of Jesus) showed that this effect (which we might call the "Montessori Effect") resulted in five times as much alertness and five times as much display of pleasure than the same content delivered by talking to a woman with Stage 2 Alzheimer's disease. This is huge! Diana's work is the first known empirical study on methods of ministry to that population.
Most of the materials available from Touching Grace are based on Montessori principles. We must ask ourselves, then: How we can justify visitation in which we offer the other person less than we might?
Providing a Montessori-style visit to a person with dementia does not require using a commercial product. Diana's how-to-do-it book, Touching Grace: Montessori Methods and the Touch of Christ, shows many ways to use Montessori-style methods to help dementia patients know God. It is available at the the Touching Grace store. Click here.
Touching Grace exists to enhance emotional and spiritual quality of life of late-age men and women, especially those who are homebound or in residential care. We depend on contributions to do this.