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Philosophy with Children and Teenagers

Awakening creativity through the community of inquiry

Philosophy

How we can serve your school:

  • invite us to become your Philosopher in Residence (UK model), running weekly inquiries

  • run 6-8 weeks programme at your school

  • assist you with the short course in Philosophy in Junior Cycle

  • help students with their project for the Young Irish Philosopher competition

  • train and support teachers with implementing P4C in their subjects' curriculum

  • sessions in the form of an after-school club

 

Main benefits of doing Philosophy with children:

  • significant gains in verbal and non-verbal reasoning

  • better communication

  • improved behavior

  • improved skills of listening, questioning, reasoning, reading, and understanding.

  • experience of democracy in action

  • engaging with Big Ideas

  • stimulating problem solving and creative thinking

 

And by the way ... Philosophy? What is it?

 

The Greek word φιλοσοφία comes from two words philos (to love) and sophia (knowledge or wisdom) literally meaning the love of wisdom. Philosophy asks the big questions about life. Historically beginnings of philosophy start in Ancient Greece, where curiosity for understanding the world and it's working became an important part of the culture. We owe a lot to many ancient thinkers like Plato, Aristotle and of course Socrates. Since then philosophy became a central part of our western civilization. Our modern science, especially physics, comes directly from philosophy. We can talk about the different pillars of philosophy. Metaphysics (Greek ta meta ta phusika - the things after the Physics) deals with ideas, abstract concepts like being, knowing, identity, time, and space. Its branch Ontology (Greek tō ōn - to be) asks the questions about what is existence or what exists. Epistemology (Greek epistēmē - knowledge) is asking the questions about perception and knowledge, how can we be sure of what we know.  Esthetics (Greek aisthesthai - perceive) is concerned with questions about beauty and art, like how do we know something is beautiful. Ethics (Greek hē ēthikē tekhnē - the science of morals) asks questions about moral conduct and principles, how we do know right from wrong. Philosophy of Politics (Greek politēs - citizen, polis - city) wants to explain how should a group of people govern themselves in the best possible way. And, of course, all these wouldn't be possible without logic (Greek logos - word, reason) that looks at the validity and correctness of reasoning. The more recent branch is the philosophy of science, asking about its foundations, methods, and implications.

 

Philosophy for Children (P4C) or Philosophical Enquiry in Classroom

Children are naturally curious and ask questions - in this sense there are born philosophers, with a bit of guidance they become good at it. It has been almost 50 years since people like Matthew Lipman, Ann Margaret Sharp or Gareth B. Matthews started doing the philosophy with young people and children in the USA. It was mostly out of concern about the state of education, that was (and still is in most cases) focused on repetition rather than the understanding of knowledge, Lipman and Sharp coined a term - Philosophy for Children (P4C) and created a format that is still used today, helping students to think for themselves. Decades later we're lucky to have the methodology developed to the highest standards by many professionals like philosophers, teachers, and pedagogues. There are many styles of doing the philosophy with children. All the different approaches are focusing on developing higher-order thinking and communication skills, like creative thinking, critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, systematic thinking. The sessions are encouraging asking questions, building a community of inquiry. SAPERE (P4C community in the UK)  talks about 4 Cs - Creative and Critical Thinking forming the inquiry, Collaborative and Caring Thinking are creating a sense of community. The method of inquiry is very often called a Socratic method, since Socrates was the philosopher, that helped his interlocutors to come to the answers by themselves, by challenging their ideas.

 

What to expect during a Philosophical Enquiry with Children

In recent years there were a lot of studies done on the benefits of doing philosophy with children. They've shown that children regularly doing philosophy can do better at reading, writing, and maths. They also engage more with different subjects at school. Their self-esteem improves and they are articulating themselves easier in front of the teachers and peers.  

The typical session starts with the facilitator presenting a stimulus, mostly in a form of a story (but it can be a picture, piece of music, short drama, an object) Then depending on the style, the children will have time to discuss what they see, formulate and choose a question for the session. With the less experienced groups, we often bring ready, focused questions related to the stimulus, rooted in the long philosophical tradition. Children then discuss the problem amongst themselves. The facilitator's role is in keeping the group on the track, anchoring in the laid out problem but NOT forcing any opinions and answers onto children. Very often the facilitator is quiet, letting the discussion unfold. Sometimes an intervention is needed to progress in answering the question. At the end of the session, there is a time for reflection. Sometimes the children will also evaluate how they thought the session went. The philosophical inquiry also involves some interactive games to make it fun and to keep the children engaged. The sessions are very similar regardless of the age of the group, although the questions and discussions will get more complex with the age of participants.

 

The Philosopher in Residence is here to help

We understand that teachers have already lots to do. Learning a new pedagogy can take time and seeing it in action in your class, having a philosopher in residence, is a great start if you want to introduce Philosophy to your school. You'll have a chance to witness how P4C works in a school setting. We suggest you'll have at least 6-8 sessions for each chosen classroom - 1 h session weekly (we can do up to 4 classrooms in a day, a minimum 2 classrooms to get our special offer) or you can invite us for regular sessions throughout the school year. We can discuss then how you can develop your skills to embed Philosophy into your school's curriculum. We'll be happy to share resources with you and recommend training for teachers.

 

Philosophy with Children in Ireland

The short course in philosophy was introduced to Junior Cycle in September 2016. Thanks to enthusiastic encouragement from the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, Jan O'Sullivan and people from Philosophy Ireland we have now philosophy in the Irish curriculum. The course is voluntary and invites teachers to get familiar with the P4C methodology. In November 2017 The Young Irish Philosopher Award competition was also launched. Little Rainbow Academy Ireland was proud to bring the SOPHIA network, European Foundation for the Advancement of Philosophy with children to Ireland. With the help of Philosophy Department at NUIG we co-hosted the annual meeting in 2019.

We are here to help. We are encouraging philosophy sessions, especially on the Primary Schools' level as we believe it will benefit children, even more, when they'll start early. There is a hope that someday the philosophy sessions will be also introduced on a National Curriculum at this level. Why wait?

 

Follow the links below to find out more about Philosophy in Education, research and resources.