Brilliant Combination of Teaching and Outreach (updated)
Mount Holyoke philosophy professor Thomas Wartenberg and College President Lynn Pasquerella co-teach a course called “Philosophy for Children.” An article at masslive.com describes it:
As part of the course, college students are teaching second graders at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield to question their own assumptions, listen to one another’s points of view and sometimes even change their minds—all with the help of children’s books…
The Mount Holyoke students spend several weeks in class learning the principles of philosophy–and how to teach them on an elementary level–before facilitating discussions among the children and their teachers in person. The college students teach once a week for 45 minutes, the standard length of the school’s periods. They are there for seven or eight weeks. This is the eighth year the Mount Holyoke students have been at the charter school.
The course is the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Picture Books that will air on PBS affiliate WGBY on Monday, November 3rd at 8pm. A brief excerpt from the documentary is viewable here, and the whole film will be available to watch there starting on November 4th.
If you know of similar programs at other schools, please share that knowledge in the comments.
UPDATE (11/7/14): The documentary is now online here.
UPDATE (11/9/14): Several people have commented below about similar programs at their schools. See, for example, this article about the course at University of Oregon (via Paul Bodin).
(art: from the cover of The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, a beautiful wordless children’s book on paradox, fiction, and friendship)
Hawaii has an extensive Philosophy for Children (P4C) program that connects with similar efforts in Japan: http://p4chawaii.org/Report
University of Washington – Seattle has a similar program as well.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a very informative entry on the history of the Philosophy for Children movement, which includes a link to other internet resources. And a Google search for “philosophy for children” turns up more results than you’ll have time to sort through.
As a personal aside, I’m planning to help a group of parents who are homeschooling their children develop some philosophy exercises for their elementary-school-aged children. If anyone has experience doing this, please contact me via e-mail (contact information available on my website).Report
For those interested in pre-college philosophy, there is the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO).
Also, Johns Hopkins runs the Center for Talented Youth which offers a number of philosophy courses to gifted students in grades 7-12 (I think they have a young students program with some philosophy courses as well). For graduate students interested in teaching philosophy to younger people, this is a great summer job.
I teach a similar class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the fall semester, my students work with high school students competing in the local High School Ethics Bowl tournament; in the spring semester, we learn how to lead philosophy discussions in a k-5 setting. Beyond that, UNC grad students, undergrads, and faculty have been involved in outreach for years, in schools, retirement communities, a community college GED program, and a juvenile detention center. http://philosophy.unc.edu/outreach/Report
I have been working (alongside an amazing team) on creating a resource (Wi-Phi: Wireless Philosophy) for critical thinking and philosophy targeted at making philosophy more accessible to the general public. It’s still early in the process but we currently have 50 videos on an array of topics as well as some videos and assessments (more coming) in critical thinking. We hope that these videos pique people’s interest in philosophy and also serve as a resource for faculty to supplement their content (e.g. Derek Bowman you might be able to use some of this material in helping with homeschooling syllabi). You can access our content via our partner page on Khan Academy (this also where the assessments are hosted) : https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/wi-phi. Or access our main page here: http://wi-phi.com/. If you have any feedback on the project or would like to contribute please contact us: http://wi-phi.com/contact-us!Report
One suggestion and two follow-ups:
1. For young kids, Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Is Nothing Something?’ is a terrific book for starting philosophical conversations (yeah, some of it’s a little out there, but I’ve had some great chats with our kids starting with that book): http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Something-Questions-Friendship-Everything/dp/1937006654/
2. Seconding Kimberly’s comment: every graduate student who is passionate about teaching should think about applying to teach a CTY summer course. I taught existentialism to 9th-10th graders one summer, and it was one of the most profound teaching experiences of my life.
3. I’ve recently gotten more involved with Wi-Phi, the project Gaurav describes. It’s a good resource. A lot of the videos (not all) are easily accessible to kids — my 10-year-old son has enjoyed several. Homeschoolers and people interested in incorporating philosophy into middle- and high-school curricula should check it out. The content is all free, licensed under Creative Commons, etc.Report
The University of Sheffied has a very successful student run project to teach at schools in sheffield including primary schools. Its called philosophy in the city.
I teach a course like this at Cal State Northridge, using many chapters from Wartenberg’s book. It includes a fieldwork component in which the students must lead a philosophical discussion with an elementary school class. It is part of a special teacher training degree we have at CSUN. The syllabus is available on my academia.edu page:
I’ve also recently found some philosophy for children apps, in the process of testing them out. You can google “Tinker thinkers” and “Sophia the Wise” to find them.Report
The Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso is currently developing a P4C outreach program in El Paso that will operate in bilingual (Spanish and English-speaking) settings. We are now working on a website that will offer P4C lesson plans and other teaching materials in Spanish. Check out our department website in about a month to access these materials! (The long-standing Mount Holyoke P4C program has been a great inspiration for us.)Report
I did the M.A.T. in the P4C program back in the 80’s when the Masters program first started. Like all new programs, and especially those with an interdisciplinary focus, it was viewed with deep suspicion by those unfamiliar with it. I am so happy to see how much it has grown and how many departments now engage with it–especially as outreach in their communities. I know that Creighton University also has a very developed philosophy for children program. We are hoping to start something at Texas A&M.Report
We’ve just started a similar initiative at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland: the Aberdeen Philosophy in Education Group. Undergraduate and postgraduate students are currently training to facilitate group discussion of philosophical questions. Starting from January 2015 they will be volunteering in local primary and secondary schools.Report
The University of Oregon Department of Philosophy is into its third year offering “Teaching Children Philosophy” to undergraduates from philosophy, education studies and other disciplines. The course outreaches to more than a dozen third through fifth grade classrooms in the Eugene, Oregon public schools. There are two aspects that the U.O. outreach has developed to build upon Professor Wartenberg’s wonderful curriculum. First, most of the prompts for discussion come from original two-minute plays written by the course instructor in collaboration with his undergraduate students. These plays are performed by the children themselves just before each discussion, and they purposefully bring up philosophical issues that remain unresolved and act as catalysts for engaging talk among the children. Second, the classroom teachers are active participants in each circle discussion. They also write personal written responses –as do the university undergraduates–in the children’s philosophical journals, and they receive a toolkit of facilitating techniques that they can use in leading critical thinking discussions in other areas of their curriculum. This helps to create a strong relationship between classroom teachers and the university program.Report
I love this idea! Thanks for posting.Report
I forgot to mention in my previous comment that the University of Oregon College of Arts and Sciences published a well-researched article documenting philosophical discussions in a 4th grade classroom. The article came out spring term 2014 and can be accessed at this link: http://cascade.uoregon.edu/spring2014/features/school-of-thought/Report
We’ve been running a Philosophy for Children course at Carleton College this Spring term using Tom Wartenberg’s approach. We’re halfway through our five class visits to a first grade class in town. Since the kids are so young, we spend about 1/3 of our time there (an hour total) doing a very hands-on activity related to the philosophy and book we read/discussed that day. So far as we can tell, the kids love it. Certainly, my students and I love it!Report