An occasional newsletter from The Philosophy Club
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Dear friends,

It's been such an exciting year for us already, and we're only a few months in! We're pleased to update you with news of our recent happenings...

Philosophy and creativity talk at ArtPlay
Emotions workshops at Footscray West
Robotics at the Library at the Dock
The Heatherhill Festival of Thought
What's new on our blog?
       Philosophy in the Art Room
       We Lit a Fire...

Philosophy and creativity talk at ArtPlay

We were delighted to present a talk at ArtPlay's professional development evening series. The intimate event – '"But why?" Philosophy and Art with Children' – brought together an attentive audience of artists, teachers and parents. All were curious about what role art can play in helping children to explore their worlds, pose their questions and express their ideas. The evening kicked off with our talk (presented by David) which gave us an opportunity to share our thoughts about the practice of philosophy as a creative pursuit.

That was followed by a thought-provoking presentation by arts educator Yvette Walker, who uses philosophical enquiry to engage kids at gallery exhibitions and to deepen their appreciation for visual arts.

he event wrapped up with a mindfulness activity led by artist Rebecca Russell – an experience that had us all looking a little more closely at our environment.

We were delighted that our talk prompted some interesting questions from the audience. It was a pleasure to be part of this event and we look forward to further collaborations with ArtPlay in the future.

Emotions workshops at Footscray West

We recently ran introductory workshops for all the Years 3 & 4 students at Footscray West Primary School, with the help of our excellent facilitators Shannon, Kai, Carmen, Hannah and Alice.

More than 160 young students rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into small-group activities and discussions on the theme of emotions. We started by exploring where in the body we experience emotions...

Image: Emotionally}Vague Project

Then we screened the Pixar short film 'The Blue Umbrella' which raised a whole assortment of questions about emotional control, sympathy and empathy...

We played a game of "emotional charades" and discussed hiding and faking emotions...

And we premiered a brand-new Philosophy Club stimulus, "Dr Feelsie's Emporium of Emotions", which got us thinking about whether, how and why we might choose our emotional responses. All juicy food for philosophical thought! 

We're pleased to report that the Years 3 & 4 students were all highly engaged in the discussions. Their teachers offered us this very encouraging feedback:
  The consensus among staff here was that today was very worthwhile and your facilitators were brilliant. Students are saying that they loved the games and acting... The most memorable aspect of the program was the range of ideas, materials and activities which were used to engage the students. The facilitators were extremely professional. They accepted all student contributions without judgement and encouraged the quiet students to contribute. The program was such a good fit with our unit of work...The students deepened their understanding of how we experience emotions and the experience contributed to their acceptance of each other. It was great that you were able to modify the program to cater for the special needs of some individuals."

Thanks to the teachers of Footscray West who made us welcome in their classrooms. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the school and furthering the students' philosophical development.

Robotics at the Library at the Dock

We had a lot of fun at our small-scale Robotics workshop at the Library at the Dock, another successful event that was well received by participants. Our philosophical investigations into the nature of minds, machine learning the possibility of genuine artificial intelligence was a challenging precursor to building tiny robots made out of toothbrushes! The librarian who had commissioned the workshop told us: 
   I really enjoyed the day and felt that it was a fantastic experience for the kids who attended."


We know there are lots of people whose keen kids were on the waiting list. We are working hard to provide further opportunities for more children to attend our workshops.

The Heatherhill Festival of Thought

We’re overjoyed that a culture of ‘thinking about thinking’ has taken root at Heatherhill Primary School as a direct result of our Big Questions philosophy program. We’d expected that our eight-week program would ignite students’ curiosity about life’s big questions, but we didn’t dare hope for this kind of catalytic effect!

Teachers have been putting thinking front and centre, and it’s had a transformative impact on the whole school. Philosophy is now an established part of the school’s four-year strategic plan, with philosophical dialogue being incorporated into the mainstream Literacy curriculum. We feel very privileged to be working with the remarkable teachers of this exceptional government school, a beacon of progressive thinking that is lighting a path for its students.

Throughout Term 1 this year, every student from Prep to Year 6 pursued a dedicated Inquiry unit focusing metacognitive questions. The students’ philosophical investigations culminated in a twilight ‘Festival of Thought’. The school was abuzz with activity for this very special event which attracted hundreds of kids, parents and citizens of the Springvale community. 

A diverse program of performances and interactive exhibits showcased the development of students’ thinking and creativity throughout the school term. Beneath twinkling fairy lights, the school grounds came to life with philosophical puppet theatre, lively ethical debates, dramatic role-plays and art installations, all reflecting the theme of ‘Thinking’. You can read all about the event here.

What's new on our blog?

PHILOSOPHY IN THE ART ROOM, inspired by our presentation for ArtPlay, takes a look at the intersection between art and philosophy for kids. It explores how creative philosophical thinking can contribute to richer art-making and more thoughtful art criticism.

     Adaptation of a cartoon by Grant Snider 

In this  post, we investigate three aspects of philosophical creativity – imaginativeness, open-mindedness and inventiveness – and the relevance of each to children's artistic practice. We include some illuminating examples of kids' thinking and drawing. Read the post!

WE LIT A FIRE... is our blog post all about the recent 'Festival of Thought' at Heatherhill Primary School. 

Nearly 2000 years ago, the ancient Greek essayist Plutarch wrote: “For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.” We’re humbled to know that our work has lit a fire at Heatherhill, and we hope it will continue to burn brightly for many years to come! Read the post!

We are proud to be continuing our philosophical work with children while taking care of our darling baby daughter Zoe. Thanks so much to the friends of The Philosophy Club who have sent us messages of congratulations!

We were lucky to be supported throughout the birth by an exceptional doula, Erika of Birthworks, who revealed to us the benefits and also the limits of philosophical thinking while helping Zoe into the world. Thank you Erika, and thanks to all the marvellous midwives at the Royal Women's Hospital!
Wishing all our supporters a very cosy autumn (or a crisp spring, for any northerners),

Michelle and David

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


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