About a century ago, Maria Montessori discovered some secrets about childhood. She recognised that children develop themselves through their own activity.
In the Children’s House which she started in a deprived area in Italy’s San Lorenzo, beautiful doll’s houses, musical boxes, train sets and other elaborate toys were donated to the school by generous members of the public. But Montessori observed that the children were transiently interested in these while some other materials remain loved and used repeatedly. From these observations, she reduced the number of objects in the room to only those that the children had ‘chosen’. She made more of the latter type of materials and the children loved them too. She described this as kind of ‘prepared environment’; a place which allowed children to be active and learn.
Another great discovery Montessori made was that children needed adults. They needed them to protect their independent activity from disturbance, to show them how to use something and then to let them try it themselves and to show them how to look after the things in the room. She also discovered that the children did not need adults to teach them a great deal. Instead, the children learned from the materials, from another child who had been shown or just from making a few mistakes and then figuring it out.
100 years later, science continues to prove a little at a time what this Italian phenomenon of a woman discovered a long time ago. Here it is being proven by the people at One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and their work in Ethiopia.
Click ‘one laptop per child in Ethiopia‘to read the original post by OLPC to find out more about the hypotheses and findings.