About Portland | Montessori Education for Social Change

The success story of the last International Montessori Congress, Portland 2013.


Portland is home to Montessori Northwest, an AMI training centre founded in 1979 and now supporting five trainers offering Assistant to Infancy, Primary, and Elementary courses, as well as organising the congress itself. More than 100 Montessori schools thrive in the Portland area, including 7 serving 150 or more families with both primary and elementary, three adolescent programmes and two public charters.

With 2,500 participants representing 60 countries and around 2,102,400 minutes of careful thought and planning…what is the true measure of the success of the congress? The underlying tenor of the congress was conveyed simply yet strongly by André Roberfroid’s opening and closing messages - take action or our movement will die.

    Montessori training:  
56+ 28%   0-2 years 8%
45 - 55 22%   2-6 years 45%
35 - 44 26%   6-12 years 14%
25 - 34 22%   12-18 years 1%
Up to 24 2%   Multiple Level 19%
      Not Trained 13%

International Montessori Congresses historically have often marked pivotal moments for the global Montessori movement and inspired transformation in the country where it is held. At the 2013 International Montessori Congress in Portland, Oregon, in the United States, that’s exactly what was experienced.

From André Roberfroid’s Opening Speech

“...our task is daunting, but our capacity is endless. Our ambition goes far beyond the school. In a Montessori class we offer the children an opportunity to exercise freedom, while practising mutual respect and stimulating solidarity. Is there a nobler goal for adults to assist children to construct a society where freedom will be the norm, respect will be natural and solidarity will be the instrument to achieve harmony?”

Portland as the Perfect Prepared Environment

The Oregon Convention Centre was transformed into the participants’ Prepared Environment, carefully set up by the organiser, Montessori Northwest and convenor, AMI (Association Montessori Internationale). The overall theme was ‘Montessori: Guided by Nature’. Strong keynote speakers laid out the texture of the topics for the day and break-out sessions provided a rich array of diverse choices for the participants. The topics represented the operationalisation of Montessori’s basic principles of the nature of the child and potential and how nature is really us and that we are a manifestation of nature. Presentations were arranged by theme, linked to the overall theme and woven together to make a tapestry with a Montessori soul. With almost four years of preparation to its credit, the birth of the 27th International Montessori Congress was near flawless and impeccable in its execution.


The day-to-day hands-on work of transformation came out in the breakouts. The four days were packed with fifty sessions so full of information and inspiration it was hard to choose among them. Speakers included AMI trainers, the leaders of AMI, AMI-USA, AMS, NAMTA and the Montessori Foundation, as well as PhDs, lead researchers, classroom teachers and philanthropic foundation board members. Of course no one could go to more than a tenth of the session. But the big picture tells a big story. Some breakouts offered materials teachers could take right back to the classroom: songs, stories, tomatoes, labyrinths and mud. Others presented scientific research and child psychology from Montessori and outsider perspectives. But nearly half the sessions feathered stories of Montessori in action as a social movement improving children’s and families’ lives.