AMI Talks - Desired childhoods, adverse childhoods and the future of early childhood education

Maria Montessori courageously carved out her way in a male-dominated society that was fraught with barriers for women; she went on to develop an approach to human development that was empowering for both children and their parents and carers.

On Wednesday 8 March 2023, as the world observed International Women’s Day, we celebrated the power of women. At AMI we marked this day by hosting our second AMI talk of 2023 with two outstanding speakers: Professor Noah Sobe, a scholar of the history and future of education, and Beverley Maragh, lecturer at the Maria Montessori Institute, London. Both speakers are passionate about the importance of childhood, and education and shared their insights on children’s and women’s interaction with society, its structures, challenges and opportunities.

Noah Sobe’s presentation explored whether the concept of childhood has its own historical lifespan. It began with an examination of how a proper, protected, healthy childhood was understood at the time of Montessori's first work in education, and then traced ways that childhood changed across the 20th and 21st centuries. The talk concluded with an evaluation of historical arguments that we have reached an "end" to childhood and what this might mean for early childhood education.

Beverley Maragh presented an amazing initiative that was created in collaboration with the Born Inside project, aimed at benefiting mothers, babies, and pregnant women in one of the biggest prisons for women in Britain. Her story is testimony to the great commitment and dedication to give infants and babies a “head-start” in circumstances where love and care can be scarce commodities. Beverley sketched how the initiative developed, also having to battle against institutional prejudices, and the disruption caused by Covid. The Born Inside initiative has been replicated in Mexico, where recently a mother and baby unit opened in a penal institution.


Noah W. Sobe is Professor of Modern European History in the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago. His scholarship includes work in the history of childhood and the history of emotions and has treated topics such as attentiveness and boredom in school, world’s fairs and international expositions, and international curriculum history. From 2019–2022, while on a leave from his academic position, Professor Sobe worked as Senior Project Officer at UNESCO on the Future of Learning and Innovation team where he helped to lead the research and drafting of the UNESCO flagship report Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education.  This once-a-generation visioning and foresight surveyed the contemporary global landscape and put forth an educational vision for flourishing futures for humanity and the living planet Earth.

Beverley Maragh is a lecturer at the Maria Montessori Institute, London. Beverley trained as a Nursery Nurse and worked with children and families in Children's Centres in and around London’s inner city areas. In 1995, she obtained her AMI Primary 3-6 Diploma from MMTO (now MMI). She then worked as a head teacher in a Montessori day care before opening her own school. In 2011, Beverley gained her AMI 0-3 diploma, a BA in Early Childhood Studies from London Metropolitan University and a diploma in Antenatal Care from the University of Worcester. She is a member of MMI's teaching staff and works with MMI's Born Inside project with mothers and babies and pregnant women in one of Britain’s largest female prisons. Trained as a doula, she volunteers with Birth Companions, which works with women that have been disadvantaged by drugs, trafficking or refugee status.