An occasional newsletter from The Philosophy Club
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Dear friends,

A warm welcome to all the new subscribers who have joined us since our last newsletter!


What's next for The Philosophy Club?
       Summer 2014/15
       New school partnerships

Recent happenings...
Free workshops for Melbourne Knowledge Week
       Gifted Networking Expo
       Big Questions program evaluation
              Feedback from the class teacher
              Feedback from mentors

What's new on our blog?
       Three Questions About Philosophy

How we do philosophy with kids
     What adult philosophers can learn from child philosophers


What's next for The Philosophy Club?

Summer 2014/15

We're thrilled to announce that we're expecting a baby this summer! Of course, this will come as no surprise to those of you who have seen us in person recently

Considering how much joy we've had from working with other people's 
Little Philosophers, we can't wait to have one of our own! Alison Gopnik's The Philosophical Baby will be on our reading list in the coming months.

Unfortunately, the imminent baby (and other commitments) have made it unrealistic for us to run the summer holiday programs we were hoping for in December/January. We are very sorry to disappoint any eager kids who were looking forward to doing Philosophy with us this summer. We promise to let you know just as soon as we are able to plan another extra-curricular workshop or holiday program.


New school partnerships

We're excited about developing new partnerships with more schools in Melbourne during the coming year!

If you think your child's school might be interested, please let us know. We'll be keen to meet with the Principal to talk about how we could introduce Philosophy by working with the children and/or providing staff development.

"The Big Questions program has encouraged staff to incorporate Philosophy and higher order thinking into all aspects of the curriculum. Michelle Sowey, David Urbinder and their mentor team have excited us with the possibilities.

I strongly encourage other schools to engage in and embrace The Philosophy Club and its programs."

- Principal, Heatherhill Primary School, VIC  

Recent happenings...

Melbourne Knowledge Week 2014

In early November, we ran taster workshops "To Boldly Go Where No Child Has Gone Before!" (for 8 & 9 year olds) and "When Things Start to Think..." (for 10 – 12 year olds), which introduced our original critical and creative thinking activities to a new generation of curious children.

When we asked parents what their kids thought of the workshops, here's what they said:
[My daughter] loved all of it, she actually said 'I would do that every day if I could'. She was buzzing and sparkly and euphoric after the event. Thanks so much for giving her this opportunity... nothing has inspired her the way she was inspired by this session. I was really delighted to see how happy she was after the session!"
He was absolutely buzzing with all the ideas and possibilities."
He liked to confront his point of view with the others. He loved to think and be able to find arguments supporting his 'theory'."
Well done on your aceness... if you run this as a regular session we would sign [our daughter] up in flash. I really think this provocative and thoughtful activity is something that would appeal to a certain bunch of kids - and the friendships/ social aspect (meeting like-minded thinky friends) and the skills developed would be so valuable!"
Thanks so much to all the keen kids who participated and to their parents who provided such generous feedback!

Gifted Networking Expo

It was really great to meet so many enthusiastic parents and teachers at Melbourne's third Gifted Networking Expo, an event hosted by the Gifted Support Network.

A big 'thank you' to everyone who stopped by our stall. We loved chatting with you all!

Big Questions program evaluation

This year's program evaluation is now complete – and you can find it on our totally re-vamped Big Questions website!

In our last newsletter, we shared plenty of encouraging comments from the sweet and bright Years 4 - 6 students at Heatherhill Primary School. They wrote about how the Big Questions philosophy mentoring program has transformed their thinking, developed their creativity, ignited their curiosity, helped them reflect on their opinions and construct reasoned arguments, developed their social-emotional intelligence and built their confidence.

Today, we share some more feedback from the school staff at Heatherhill, and also from the ten University of Melbourne student mentors who worked with the primary school kids over an 8-week period.

Feedback from the class teacher

Thank you so much for all the incredibly engaging lessons and the effort that you all put in. Our students loved being challenged. Thanks for letting them share their creative and reflective thoughts and building an environment where they all wanted to participate and share. The facilitators were fantastic! They were enthusiastic and also ensured they were encouraging the students to think deeply and share their ideas and opinions. It was interesting seeing how the students have developed their confidence to share ideas and ask questions. It was great to be able to observe how they discuss big ideas and support each other. I have noticed that my students are more keen to talk in class about interesting topics and asking so many more “why!” questions... I think the Philosophy program will influence my future classroom activities: I want to give students more time to think carefully and talk about their ideas and reasons why. Continue [the program] forever!”

- Years 4 – 6 teacher, Heatherhill Primary School, VIC


Feedback from mentors

It was really uplifting being able to watch the kids develop their confidence and critical thinking skills over the course of semester. We developed really special bonds with our group and it has definitely inspired me to consider teaching in the future.”

It was really really fun and really validating to have a positive effect on children... I really felt that we were making a difference in their lives.”

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this program. It was by far one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and I will look back at my time at Heatherhill with fondness.”

"I think it was just a good experience all around...  It was just a new experience, unlike anything I've ever done, and as far I'm concerned that's valuable on its own. I also feel like I learned a lot more about primary-aged students and their thinking and learning."

I only wish the program went longer... I enjoyed it so much.” 



What's new on our blog?

Three questions about philosophy

Check out our latest post, How to Use Philosophy as a Cricket Bat, in which I attempt to answer the questions "What is philosophy to you?', 'Why do you think philosophy is important?', and 'Do you have any advice for people studying philosophy right now?'

"Philosophy is something we do to make sense of our lives and our experiences, and to build a coherent worldview. Open-mindedness, scepticism and intellectual rigour are characteristic of a philosophical outlook... Philosophy teaches us how to ask searching questions; how to be discerning; how to construct coherent arguments; how to spot irrationality and magical thinking; how to be independent-minded; how to see through rhetoric; and how to resist dogma, indoctrination and group-think." Read more...


How we do philosophy with kids...

What adult philosophers can learn from child philosophers

Check out the similarity between our basic rules for kid philosophers, and philosopher David Chalmers' rules for adult philosophers:

While kids are quick to adopt norms of respectful collaboration, academic philosophers still tend to address each other in very combative ways. Chalmers' guidelines are helping to shift the culture of academic philosophy away from a "gladiatorial arena" model and towards a more cooperative and respectful model. 

Here at The Philosophy Club, we would love to see a change to the attitudes of belligerence, aggression, scorn and condescension which often prevail in academic philosophy.

If only adult philosophers could work together constructively and inclusively, they'd be able to consider a broader range of views more fairly, and ultimately have more productive dialogues. 

Meanwhile, kids at The Philosophy Club have been setting a fine example!


Please support The Philosophy Club by forwarding this newsletter to anyone who cares about kids learning to think for themselves.

If somebody has forwarded you this newsletter, you are welcome to subscribe here in order to receive future newsletters.

Also, we love hearing from our community of parents and teachers, so if you have any questions – or feedback of any kind – please get in touch!
Best wishes,
Michelle and David

Michelle Sowey and David Urbinder
The Philosophy Club
Mobile (Australia): 0400 420 241


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