Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

Showing Up for Your Friends

Children’s points of view and ideas have changed the way I think about many subjects. Friendship is one of them. I think that children’s thoughts and observations regarding friendship are particularly insightful because friendship is so central in their lives. Especially once they begin school, children spend most of their waking hours with their peers, much more […]

More on Being Alone and Loneliness, and Being “Connected”

My previous post explored the meaning of “alone together,” a phrase used in, among other places, Arnold Lobel’s story “Alone” in Days with Frog and Toad. In the Center’s annual workshop for educators this week, we watched a video of the story and talked about the ways solitude is viewed in our society. Our society tends […]

Seen and Not Heard

Last month saw the release of my new book Seen and Not Heard: Why Children’s Voices Matter. The book describes and analyzes conversations I have had with children over the past 25 years about their philosophical questions and ideas.  Here is an excerpt:   In the following conversation about the ethics of attending friends’ birthday parties, some […]

If I Were In Charge of the World . . .

This week I read the poem “If I Were in Charge of the World” by Judith Viorst with a group of 9-11 year old students in our weekly online philosophy session. Using a lesson plan created by our Education Director Karen Emmerman, I asked the students to consider what they would do if they were […]

HIgh School Ethics Bowl

Since 2014, the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children has organized and run the Washington State High School Ethics Bowl. Modeled after the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, the High School Ethics Bowl involves teams of students analyzing a series of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas. The competition utilizes case studies relevant to youth, such as questions about […]

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type

My colleague Karen Emmerman, the Center for Philosophy for Children’s Education Director, has contributed this guest post: Doreen Cronin’s book Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type is one of my favorite books to use in philosophy for children sessions. It lends itself to many different sorts of wondering.   In the book, animals on a farm acquire […]

What’s Your Reason?

Recently I played the game “What’s Your Reason” in a virtual philosophy session with a group of eight- and nine-year-old children. The game was created by my colleague David Shapiro, and I have adapted it for a virtual setting.  In the classroom game, we hand out (depending on the students’ ages) two to four note […]

Reality Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday in an online philosophy session, the children and I played a game created by my colleague David Shapiro, the “Reality Scavenger Hunt.” This has been a popular philosophy prompt for years, and since the pandemic began, I have been adapting the game for virtual settings. First, I divide the children up into groups of 3-5 […]

Listening

Since my previous post about the role of the facilitator in philosophy sessions, I have been thinking more about listening and specifically the roles of listening and of silence in discussions. This is the subject of the last chapter of my new book, which will be out this spring.  Almost by definition, listening requires attentiveness […]

Reflections about Death

Earlier this year I had a conversation with a classroom of fourth grade students about death. It began when we read a chapter from Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting, which raises interesting questions about death, living a mortal life, and the possibility of becoming immortal. I have posted about this book in the past.  The students wondered […]

The Custom of Racism

This week I had a conversation with a group of fifth grade students at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School that began with reading Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side. This picture book tells the story of a friendship that forms between two girls in a time and place in which a fence stretches through the town separating […]

Silence and Philosophy

The traditional model for philosophy sessions in schools involves verbal communication, typically in the form of large group conversations, often in a circle. While this method of leading philosophy sessions has much to offer, not every student is immediately comfortable with this approach. The larger the class size, for example, the more challenging this model […]

Blind Painter

The “Blind Painter” activity, created by my colleague David Shapiro, is a creative and engaging exercise that always inspires a lively conversation and is a great tool for building community. The activity focuses on two key skills, both important for doing philosophy — clear communication and active listening. When we do philosophy, it’s very important that we learn to […]

Being Alone and Being Lonely

I decided to write about another of Arnold Lobels’ Frog and Toad stories today. Along with being joyful and charming, Lobel’s work is, in my estimation, among the most deeply philosophical of any children’s book author. In “Alone,” a story in Days With Frog and Toad, Toad shows up at Frog’s house to find a note on Frog’s […]

Children’s Perspectives on Childhood

Last month I had a conversation with a group of fifth grade students about the differences between children and adults, including whether they would prefer to be children or adults. We began with the students discussing what they saw as the main differences between being a child and being an adult.The children contended that children, […]

Gardening and Some Philosophical Questions

“The Garden” in Frog and Toad Together is another of Arnold Lobel’s delightful stories about the friends Frog and Toad, and one that is perfect for the early spring, which we’re experiencing in Seattle this month, with the cherry trees in full blossom.When Toad sees Frog’s beautiful garden, Toad decides that he too would like to […]

Being a Friend

Last week I was in a fourth grade classroom and we read the story The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, a picture book I’ve written about previously in this blog. We started our discussion with a question asked by one of the students about why Brian thought he was invisible. This students wondered whether Brian should […]

Listening (or Not Listening) to Children

From an editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday entitled “Our Childish Gun Debate,” by William McGurn: Quick show of hands for those with children: How many of you look to your teens for political wisdom, whether it’s the daughter obsessing over her Snapchat streaks or the son who would spend his day eating Doritos […]

How Should Our City Be Designed?

A recent article described the ways in which many cities are not child-friendly, examining some of the possibilities for designing cities around urban children and their needs and desires. It led me to think about ways to engage children in thinking about their environments and imagining the elements of what would be in their views […]

The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (illustrator Robert Lawson) is the story of a young bull, Ferdinand, growing up in Spain. Ferdinand, unlike all the other little bulls around him, does not spend his time running and jumping and butting heads with other bulls. Ferdinand likes “to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” Ferdinand […]

Do I need this or just want it?

Distinguishing between what we need and what we want is challenging for all of us, children and adults. One of my colleagues at the Center for Philosophy for Children, Karen Emmerman, has developed a great classroom exercise for thinking about the differences between wants and needs. Step One: Identifying Wants and NeedsGive the students a […]

Institutional Humility, or What Philosophy Can and Can’t Do

This will be my last blog post until the fall, and I wanted to explore further some of the issues I began examining in my last post.  In particular, I have been thinking more and more about the marketing of philosophy and the ways in which those of us in the field talk about philosophy, […]

The Challenges of Engaging All Students in Philosophy

Philosophy in K-12 classrooms is still a rarity in the United States. My work over the past 20 plus years has involved introducing philosophy into schools and helping educators and policy makers to recognize young people’s philosophical proclivities and the benefits of bringing philosophical inquiry into their lives. This involves a lot of “selling” of […]

The Other Way to Listen

The Other Way to Listen, written by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall, tells the story of a boy who wants to learn to listen. He knows an old man who can “walk by any cornfield and hear the corn singing,” who has heard “wildflower seeds burst open, beginning to grow underground,”and many other sounds that […]

The Invisible Boy

The Invisible Boy, a 2013 picture book written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patricia Barton, was recommended to me recently by a colleague. The “invisible boy” of the story is Brian, who, unlike some of his classmates, doesn’t “take up a lot of space” and isn’t noticed by either his teacher or the other […]

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two ten-year-old girls, Lina and Feroza, and their families, who are living in a refugee camp in Pakistan, having fled the war in Afghanistan. The girls become friends when each finds one sandal from a matching pair, after relief workers throw used clothing […]

Tuck Everlasting

Recently I read a chapter (Chaper 12) from the young adult novel Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit, to a class of fifth grade students at John Muir Elementary School in Seattle. I was surprised that almost none of the students had heard of this classic work.Tuck Everlasting is the story of the Tuck family, a […]

Elections and Normality

On Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s election, I led my weekly philosophy session with a group of 5th grade students at John Muir Elementary School. The students are primarily immigrants and children of color. I knew that they would want to talk about the presidential election, and so I brought the book, The Araboolies of Liberty […]

Why Do We Go to School?

I had an interesting discussion earlier this month with a group of 5th grade students from Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, about why we go to school. Thurgood Marshall is an interesting and unusual school. It has a General Education program, which serves neighborhood students who are almost entirely students of color with about 70% qualifying […]

The Other Side

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture book The Other Side begins as follows: “That summer the fence that stretched through our town seemed bigger.” The story is narrated by Clover, who lives in a house on the side of the fence that separates the black townspeople from the whites in the town. Clover’s mother tells her not to climb […]

New Book!

I have had a number of inquiries recently about this blog and the time lapse since my last post. I have not been posting since the spring because I been working on a new book, which will be out this month! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442234784/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1442234784&linkCode=as2&tag=stehac-20&linkId=XAF3AVY3FUZIQB6I I hope to return to posting more regularly in 2016. Happy holidays to […]

Amazing Grace

Mary Hoffman’s 1991 picture book Amazing Grace tells the story of Grace, who loves stories and especially loves acting them out. Filled with imagination and dramatic flair, Grace decides that she will play the part of Peter Pan when her teacher tells the class that they are going to perform the play. One student tells her, […]

“Lifeboat” Activity with Children’s Hospital Patients

This week at Children’s Hospital’s school, in my weekly session with the older students, I facilitated an activity adapted from an exercise created by my colleague David Shapiro. Here is a brief description of the activity (in a larger class, this is done in small groups, and there are dozens of characters — the exercise […]

Freedom Summer

Written by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, Freedom Summer tells the story of a friendship between two boys in the early 1960s in Mississippi: Joe, who is white, and John Henry, who is African American. John Henry’s mother works for Joe’s family. The boys love to swim and they swim together in the creek, because […]

A Shelter in Our Car

In A Shelter in Our Car, Monica Gunning depicts the experiences of eight-year-old Zettie and her mother, who have come to the United States after Zettie’s father’s death. They are temporarily homeless, due to the struggle Zettie’s mother has been having to find reliable work. After they have spent some time in a shelter, which, Zettie […]

Taking Over Your Life

I taught my first philosophy session at the school at Seattle Children’s Hospital this morning, which I will be doing every Tuesday. We started with Plato’s Ring of Gyges, which led us into a conversation about whether possessing something like Gyges’ ring could end up taking over your life. Frequently when I discuss this allegory […]

Freedom and Following the Rules

In a third grade classroom at John Muir Elementary this morning, I read Toni Morrison’s The Big Box with the students. The story is about three children who are put into a “big box” after the adults in their lives conclude that they can’t “handle their freedom.” The box is full of toys and their […]

When Lions Roar

Can we control our feelings? Our perceptions? Does how we feel affect what happens in the world?When Lions Roar, a simple picture book by Robie Harris, depicts how scary the world can feel when “lions roar,” “thunder booms,” “big dogs bark,” “mommies holler,” and so on. The child in the story responds, “I sit right […]

Pezzettino

Leo Lionni’s Pezzettino is the story of the small Pezzettino (which means “little piece” in Italian), who is a small orange square surrounded by other beings who are all made up of many different-colored squares. Pezzettino observes that everyone around him is “big and [does] daring and wonderful things.” He concludes that he must be […]