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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Paralympic Philosophy with 10yr olds

When a 10yr old kid asks you, "Can our philosophy session tomorrow be about the Paralympics?" you know that something is going right.  You also spend the night worrying about language, political correctness, possible disasters and potential upset.  There seems to be a lot that can go wrong.

I was at least sure that no kids would commit 'fashion' faux pas.  Thank you, school uniform.

The day after I was asked this question, I ran that philosophy session with my year 4 kidlets.  
The kids were amazing.  
We agreed at the start that no matter how clumsily we said things, we meant the best of intentions.  
We even covered some of the BBC broadcasting guidelines - for the kids who wanted to 'get it right'.

The challenge wasn't language.  The challenge was that everyone wanted in on the conversation.  Steve, our class mascot was absent (preparing himself for a 10yr old's party) so my toy Cookie Monster was the talk toy.  He got a workout - flying back and forth across our circle of inquiry.

"Tonight... Lethal Weapon Two."  Still my favourite Mosterpiece Theatre scene of all time.  Thank you, Alistair Cookie.

 We started by finishing the phrase, "The Paralympics is all about ..." individually on our whiteboards.
This told me what the kidlets had in their heads as the 'theme'.
Each kid identified another whose idea they liked.  
They were then asked to write a question based on that other theme.  
We've done quite a lot on question starters, so the kidlets knew how to start them with key words to form open-ended questions. 
Many wrote 'killer' questions. (That means 'good' in my world)

"What would the world be like for people with disabilities if they didn't have the Paralympics?"
"Why are the Paralympics important?"
 "Is the Paralympics more important than the Olympics?"
"Do people with disabilities feel inspired by Paralympians?"
"Can [we] (he'd said 'normal people) feel inspired by Paralympians?"
"How does the Paralympics give us all hope?"

Are you inspired?  Are you challenged?  Are you alive to the beauty?
With every intention of sticking to one theme and one question, I let them loose on each other.  
Kids built on ideas, challenged with questions, paraphrased, changed track and 'just went for it'.  
One theme.... One question.... never gonna happen.  
I stayed back until I thought it was time to try other angles.  

I'm getting much better at ... shutting up.

 Finally, to close, I asked the kids to finish this question by adding a word at the start: 

"___ is the Paralympics so good?"

How.  Why.  When.  Where.   
Each question opens up debate, conversation, philosophical discussion.

Are my kids little Platos yet?  No.  I'm certainly no Socrates, leading them into this love of wisdom.
Are they scared of philosophy though?  Hell no.  They keep asking me if we can try again - and I keep seeing my timetable blur.  This stuff takes time.  It'll take some more transdisciplinary planning to make the time required to break open these little minds and offer them insight into the wonder inside each other.


wholeboxndice said...

Great conversations. Interested to hear more about what you are doing with philosophy.

Lindy Buckley said...

Great stuff! Wonderful thinking!