Wednesday, April 15, 2015

History of Montessori in Russia

Recently, I was able to visit the Institut Detstvo (Institute of Early Childhood) at Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Having the opportunity to be surrounded by so much history and culture of the city is of course inspiring, but this experience is one that left me completely awestruck.  Here, I was able to view and handle the originally made Montessori materials from the early 20th century which were brought to Russia by visionary, Yulia Ivanovna Fausek.  A biologist by training, she became interested in early childhood education and heard of Maria Montessori's Children's House in Rome.  After spending time there herself, she became one of Russia's major influences in bringing Montessori education to the country.  In fact, she opened the first Montessori school in St. Petersburg in 1913.  The collection of materials housed at the Institut Detstvo are the original collection that first entered Russia when Fausek personally delivered them.  These materials were not only used in her school, but were also part of teacher training courses and even presented to the Tsar and Tsaritsa at the Winter Palace.  After Fausek's school was shut down by the communist revolution, the materials were brought to Herzen University (1925), and have remained there to this day.

Herzen University's 'Institut Detstvo' - Institute of (Early) Childhood.  Here, students study to become preschool and Kindergarten teachers.
Sign by the main entrance to the building - Institut Detstvo.

Maria Montessori's, 'Handbook to My Method.'

Pages from the handbook describing the Pink Tower, Brown Stair, and Number Rods.  You can imagine how many pictures I wanted to take of all the pages…!

Description of the Baric Tablets.  I have a special affinity to this particular material as my Master's Thesis was based on materials usage, specifically the Baric Tablets.

Yulia Fausek's book, One Month in Rome in the "Children's Houses" of Maria Montessori.  Notice the year of publication and subsequent name of the city - Petrograd.

Original sets of Cylinder Blocks.  As I was handling them, I was told that the entire collection of materials is one of only three remaining in the world.  Humbling and awe-inspiring.

Description of Material, Goal (Direct Aim),  Indirect Aim, Age, Vocabulary for the lesson with Cylinder Block "C."

Original Bells with details of the lesson.

Tens Boards.

Touch Tablets.  And yes, I proceed to feel the boards just as I would be giving a lesson…!

A set of Color Tablets for gradation.

Details with the Color Tablets.

Sound Cylinders.  Do you need to ask if I completed the work?! ;-)

Feeling the varying weights of the Baric Tablets, thinking to myself the whole time about whose hands had also done the same thing with the same materials…

Naturally, I had to hear the sound of the bells!

'Authentic set of materials of Maria Montessori from the scientific collection of the Department of Pre-School Teachers'  Institute of (Early) Childhood - Herzen University

'The main part of the collection was made from the highest quality wood available at the beginning of the 20th century and has a stamp of the manufacturer: …'
With a portrait of Yulia Fausek at the Department of Early Childhood Education at Institut Detstvo.
This was one of those time when I wish I had better photography skills!  What a gift to have had this experience.  Upon returning home, my husband asked me, "What was it like?  Were the materials any different?  How did they feel?"  My response was not only a summary of this experience of holding history in my hands, but also representative of what has turned out to be my life's work: "No, they weren't any different or foreign at all.  They were perfect and felt just the same.  It was as if I had been a part of it forever."


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