August 31: It's Maria Montessori's birthday today!

August 31, 2023

As Montessorians around the world celebrate this day with gratitude for all that she has given us, I would share a story of how she and her friend and student Dr. Elisabeth Caspari (my friend and mentor, Montessorian for more than five decades) spent an afternoon in Kodaikanal, India where they both lived for a period of four years during World War II. They often had tea in the late afternoons after their days of work, speaking in French.

Montessori was thinking about the elementary years, and on this one afternoon she had gotten out a set of the geometric solids. Her creative mind came up with a new way to experiment with these solids.

Down on the floor, on her knees, Montessori ground up a piece of chalk. She laid out several sheets of black construction paper in front of her and began coating the solids with chalk. Then she rolled them, one at a time, down the black paper to see what kind of a line or curve they would make. As her rolling defined the shape of line each solid would make, she labeled each paper and laid out fresh black paper for the next one.

This simple story illustrates the indefatigable interest, enthusiasm, and curiosity that Montessori had for the materials she had been using with children for decades. And it shows what fun she had, sharing ideas with her friends creating new ways to use the materials! (I have tried this with children in upper elementary and they love it too!)

Elisabeth Caspari and me sharing a birthday cake. My birthday is August 28, hers is September 5, with Montessori on August 31, right in the middle!

Happy Birthday Dr. Montessori and Dr. Caspari, with all my love and the love of thousands more!

Mary Ellen Maunz

Founder and Program Director Emerita

Authentic Institute of Montessori