What is Philosophy for Children?

Philosophy for children is an approach which aims to activate and encourage the natural curiosity of children and channel it towards the building and consideration of philosophical questions. In doing so it encourages and trains critical thinking abilities in young people. The approach does not aim to teach philosophical theory, but rather to stimulate questioning and thinking about ‘big ideas’. It also resources children with the skills needed to analyze texts for deeper meaning and reflect on the ways in which concepts interrelate. The central focus on philosophical exchange and discussion provides a platform for pupils to evaluate their own views and the views of their peers in a respectful, rigorous manner and to articulate a considered response to these. The Philosophy curriculum is unique, having been created especially for the students and pedagogical values of ISML.

Year 4 class analyzing and discussing ‘big ideas’ in a text

What happens in a Philosophy lesson?

In a Philosophy lesson a group of children typically engage with a ‘stimulus’ (a story, song, picture, video, news article) and are invited to consider what they find interesting about it. Working together, children share and analyze the underlying potential or important ideas and concepts within the stimulus and use this group analysis to formulate a question. Questions are collected and democratically voted on. Pupils then lead their own inquiry on the chosen question which generally leads to very interesting, lively discussion. Sessions are intellectually playful, engaging, and child-led. They provide pupils with a chance to discover – and revel in – their inner philosopher through formulating questions, subjecting these to collective scrutiny, after which they are encouraged to articulate their own stance. As such, Philosophy lessons provide an enjoyable path to awakening and developing critical thinking capabilities, whilst cultivating a range of valuable transferable skills.