Philosophy for Juniors
Philosophy is 'the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence’. The new Philosophy for Children Program (P4C) has been introduced for students in Years 3-6 who have been identified as ‘big thinkers and good speakers’ and who show concern for wider community issues. P4C supports and enhances cognitive, affective and social skills to stimulate curiosity and allows students to think more deeply about issues and ideas that are important to them.
Benefits of philosophy to junior school children
In the school environment, the study of philosophy is not about finding the answers to life’s greatest questions. More so it involves developing the skills of applied reasoning and higher order thinking skills to make sense of the world and articulate and evaluate thoughts and ideas clearly, whatever the subject. The teacher guides students to think for themselves, allowing them to reflect on their ideas and those of others, rather than being taught a particular set of values. Evidence suggests that when children are introduced to philosophical inquiry at an early age, it nurtures diversity and a deep empathy for the experiences and views of others.
"Providing students with an outlet to think creatively and critically about significant issues that not only affect them but also others, teaches tolerance and open-mindedness which can be applied to any number of problems both inside and outside of the classroom," said John Clugston, Learning Support, and P4C Teacher. "Students learn to work in a ‘Community of Inquiry’, where discussion is the focus, where students respect each other, value listening skills, play with ideas and become inquisitive and questioning. Not only is this necessary for a balanced education in both an academic and non-academic sense, but supports a sense of wellbeing, confidence, and civic involvement."
The development of these philosophical concepts ultimately makes school a lot more meaningful to students while enhancing the essential communication and creative thinking skills prevalent in most learning domains. "It's been great to see students developing a tolerance for differing opinions, considering different ways to approach a problem and listening to others with respect. We've had many deep and insightful discussions about a variety of issues – conversations we may never have had!" said John. "Watching students express their personal views in a safe and accepting environment has been enjoyable for everyone."
How is the program delivered?
Each week the group review a series of short, related stories that focus on moral and social themes. These might include right and wrong, friendship, lying, bullying, personal growth, fairness, freedom, community, care, discrimination and rights and responsibilities. Students consider the stories then offer their opinions, listen to others, write responses, and often, as a result, change their initial point of view. "We recently explored ‘empathy’ after reading about the story of a Matador in Spain who went on to become an opponent of bullfighting after he was confronted with a bull who refused to fight," said John. "Thinking about this situation from the perspective of the Matador or the bull provoked some deep thinking and discussion in the group, resulting in some emotively written responses about animal rights.”