The Montessori Society of Canada has a great page up about Alexander Graham and Mabel Hubbard Bell’s Montessori lab school at Beinn Bhreagh in Nova Scotia in 1912, and the early days of Montessori in North America. It tells the story of the Bell family’s early interest in Montessori education and their support of the movement as it came to America. It’s well worth the read for anyone interested in Montessori history.
What’s really interesting about the article, though, are the links to historical documents from the period. (I’ve started a new page on this site to collect links to these and others that come along.) Bell kept careful notes of the experiments at Beinn Bhreagh, including the Montessori classroom, and the Montessori Society of Canada has posted scans on the site. A sample:
Next, business actually began. Each little experimenter carried his or her chair to a table, picked out an object which struck his fancy as worthy of investigation, and then began. Alex and Barbara and Georgie chose cylinders and studied different sizes and their relations to different sized holes. Robert and Sadie investigated the properties of various solids. Others tried experiments with tower building.
Also linked are the hugely influential McClure’s magazine Montessori articles from 1911-1914. The Bells likely learned about Montessori from S. S. McClure, a frequent visitor to intellectual gatherings at Beinn Bhreagh. An early description of Montessori’s scientific approach:
Maria Montessori is an example of genius in education – a field where genius is not often found. Her work is creative and can not be defined in any number of formulae. She is always experimenting, revising, modifying. … This magazine believes that her experiments are of the highest importance, and that her system of teaching is based upon observations and experiments that have never been made before, or, having been made, were never so correlated.
Contemporary articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post are linked as well. Montessori Historical Documents on this site collects and gives context for these documents and others that I may come across. As always, submissions and information are more than welcome.
Thanks to the Michael Olaf Company for bringing this page to light.