Natural Born Philosophers

Research has shown that children from as young as four years old can engage in philosophical dialogue. Many people shy away from the idea of doing philosophy with kids, but they are actually the perfect candidates. Philosophy is all about open mindedness, enquiry and being genuinely intrigued by the world. Children are naturally like this—hungry to know more, have very few preconceived ideas and constantly ask questions. In other words, they are natural born philosophers.

Eight months ago, I was introduced to Philosophy for Children, a 10 step guided inquiry framework. The basic principle is straightforward. Students start with warm up thinking games and are then exposed to a thought-provoking stimulus (a book, an image or a film). The students identify the major concepts in the stimulus and then they take some thinking time to devise their own questions about these concepts. The class chooses a question that interests them and, with the teacher facilitating, the class discuss it together. At no point does the teacher impart any knowledge. The students share and learn from each other while the teacher’s role is solely to monitor their speaking and listening skills, record their thinking and to use this opportunity to assess student understanding.

The improvements in my students after incorporating philosophy into their learning have been striking, these included improved: thinking skills, conversation skills, conflict resolution, vocabulary and independence. Let me share an example, our current unit is about migration and after watching a refugee share her story, these are some of the key concepts my class identified in the film: resilience, belonging, luck, commitment, home, wise, open-minded, love and separation. As surprising as this may seem, this is all student-generated vocabulary, which has been built through our units in Grade 2. In the same session, some of the students’ questions included: How does being resilient affect your life? Do global companies hire resilient people on purpose? How do refugees communicate? How do people know where they really belong? Are all refugees risk-takers? Sometimes, I still can’t believe the nature of the topics discussed considering they are 8 years old and how thought-provoking their questions are.

The nature of these philosophy sessions encourages children to examine the world from perspectives other than their own and so help children to develop empathy. It is not surprising that social and behavioral improvements go hand-in-hand with these democratic student-led discussions. By regularly learning how to discuss each other’s diverse opinions, my students are now better able to deal with disagreements on the playground.

Using this philosophy framework regularly has made me reach a new realization. Adults need to value the questions our children ask and to engage them with higher order thinking, because what they have to say is interesting and because our future generations need to know now, more than ever, how to think critically, creatively and empathically to solve many of the world problems which they will face as they grow up.

So how can adults outside of school help children develop their thinking skills?

  • Encourage children to be curious. Rather than avoid that dreaded “Why?” phase, help children to form and test theories in order to try to understand how the world works and to instill a love for learning.
  • Teach problem-solving skills. When dealing with problems or conflicts, it is important to have the child identify the problem and to brainstorm their own solutions. They will use critical thinking in the process of finding solutions to problems.
  • Learn from others. Gain multiple perspectives and seek out the answers to your children’s “why” questions using friends, family or the internet.
  • Help children evaluate information. We are often given lots of information at a time, and it is important to help children to think about where or who the information is coming from, how it connects to what they already know and why it is or is not important.

Giving children the opportunity to have open conversations, both inside and outside of school, are vital in shaping their abilities to think critically and to discuss ideas and solutions with compassion.

BIOCatherine Brown is a Grade 2 International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) teacher at the International School Ho Chi Minh City. She has a P.G.C.E. and M.Ed. from the University of Cambridge.

Share this story, choose your platform!

About the author:

Leave a Comment

What to Do When Your Ex Stops Paying Their Share of Debts

Divorce is often compared to a stormy sea that we navigate, seeking calm waters and fair settlements. Yet, even with the best intentions and court orders, there’s always a chance that your ex may not fulfill their obligations when it comes to shared debts. When the tide turns and your ex stops paying their fair

Read More »

Does Kratom Help With Anxiety: What You Need to Know About Using Kratom?

Kratom, with its various types of strains, is becoming a popular natural option for those seeking to manage anxiety in a positive way. Each strain offers unique effects, ranging from energizing to more calming and mood-boosting, making it a versatile choice for individuals exploring natural remedies.  Many users share positive experiences, noting how different strains

Read More »

Exploring the Great Outdoors: A Family’s Guide to Camping

Planning ahead, choosing the right date and campsite, and involving the whole family ensures a successful camping trip. Unplugging from technology and embracing the beauty of nature can enhance the camping experience. Engaging in family activities during camping fosters unity and strengthens family bonds. Purchasing necessary travel gear from a reliable source ensures a comfortable

Read More »

The Best Ways To Protect Your SkinAnd Eyes When Outdoors

Spending time outside is great for our health. You breathe fresh air, exercise, and feel good. It’s important to have some hobbies or sports that you regularly take part in outside. But the sun can harm your skin and eyes if you’re not careful. Protecting yourself from the sun is important. If you don’t, your

Read More »

Life

Life is about progression, moving forward, and taking decisive actions toward our objectives. It’s about reaching milestones that resonate within us and illuminate the path to our dreams. Milestones can differ from person to person and from culture to culture. However, there are a few significant events that are universally accepted as major life milestones.

Read More »