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Walking in Maria Montessori’s shoes

Taking steps to walk in Maria Montessori’s shoes

Photo of Ryoko outside the birthplace of the “Montessori Method” in Rome, Italy.

Ryoko anxiously awaited entering the birthplace of the “Montessori Method” in Rome, Italy.


By Julie Matuszewski; photo courtesy of Ryoko Fusatani

After the Bomb Cyclone hit Colorado, DCS Montessori upper level teacher and Castle Pines resident Ryoko Fusatani was relieved to learn that her scheduled flight to her dream destination of Rome, Italy would be a “go.” Fustani’s excitement mounted as she prepared to visit the birthplace of the “Montessori Method.”

Growing up, Fustani’s father took her on many destinations in Japan where they visited beautiful art galleries and historical museums. In those adventures, she learned to appreciate the little things in life, find beauty in simple objects and discovered the world. It was through those experiences that Fustani decided she wanted to be a teacher who provided children with a glimpse of our world filled with precious heritage and mysterious wonders.

Fustani’s trip to Rome was a return to that childhood wonderment and a way to pay homage to the Montessori Method. Atop her travel itinerary was a visit to Casa dei Bambini; to walk the steps that paved the pathway for future Montessori students.

Fustani stepped inside the modern-day classroom that has maintained Maria Montessori’s legacy within its walls. It was an experience Fustani said she would never forget and a lesson she was eager to share with her students.

Casa dei Bambini or “Children’s House” was a 1907 Rome housing project that accommodated 60 children between the ages of 2 and 7. Dr. Maria Montessori was invited to oversee the care and education of the project’s children while their parents were at work. These children were thought of as “lost causes” with poor academic performance and behavior. Maria transformed their lives. She provided the children with the opportunities, tools and experiences they needed to regain control of their lives and futures.

The methods Maria employed included many practical activities, as well as conventional lessons. These lessons allowed children to follow the direction in which their own interests led them and were lessons that became the hallmarks of the Montessori philosophy: Education based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play; lessons that Ryoko has taught her students the past decade.

Fustani returned to class, sharing her adventures and pictures of Casa dei Bambini, the Sistine Chapel and the Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli with her students. Student Donovan Lee loved the reality of Fustani’s photos. She said it felt like she had visited another Montessori school in a different country.

Fustani treasures her students just as much as she treasured her adventures with her father and her personal adventures in Rome. She hopes that one day when her class has grown older and travels the world on their own, that they too are reminded of the little in things in life. Today her students honor and respect each other, they are conscious over peace and they display grace and courtesy for others – things that would have made Maria Montessori proud.

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