Philosophy is a broad topic, focusing on concepts such as knowledge and ethics. According to the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization, these topics are important in developing children's cognitive skills and familiarizing them with moral and political issues. This will encourage children to be critical thinkers, open-minded and ask questions. Philosophy-themed activities can be done with children of all ages.
This exercise encourages students to think about common things differently. Divide students into groups of four and provide each group with an everyday item, such as a pencil or shoe. Have students come up with alternate uses for the object. Encourage them to think about the object from a variety of perspectives such as "What would you use it for if you were stranded on a island?" or "How would a caveman use this?" This activity exercises imagination, critical thinking and problem solving skills. This activity is easy enough for elementary students but can be altered for high schoolers by having them write an essay about what they would use the object for and relate it to a certain philosophical perspective such as relativism or idealism.
Right or Wrong?
This activity will get students thinking about ethics -- right versus wrong. Divide students into groups of six and have them discuss what they think makes an act right or wrong. Provide students with examples of acts such as stealing, lying and donating to charity. Students may say things such as "the law decides what is right or wrong" or "religion decides what is right and wrong." Then, ask them specific questions such as "Who decides what is right and wrong at school?" or "What is the difference between right and wrong?" to get them thinking about the topic in a variety of ways. For middle schoolers and up, have them discuss how they would rationalize being in a situation where right and wrong may conflict, such as having to hurt or kill someone in self-defence.
One Rule Game
This game focuses on rules and their use in society. First, explain to students what a rule is and its purpose. Use familiar examples such as "no outdoor shoes in the classroom" or "no leaving class without the teacher's permission." Then, tell students to imagine the classroom with only one rule and have them each write down what they think that rule should be. Read the different rules aloud to expose students to different points of view. For older students, expand this activity by holding a class vote to see which rules are most popular. This introduces students to the basics of democracy and politics.
Qualities of Friendship
This activity is about the concept of friendship. Introduce the topic by asking questions such as "What does 'friend' mean to you?" or "What do you like about your friends?" and let students share their thoughts with you. For preschoolers to first graders, have them draw a picture of their ideal friendship while second graders can write a short paragraph. Things students might mention include "someone who is nice" or "someone who makes me laugh." Older students can write more in-depth about the topic -- have high schoolers include their own perspective as well as research on the evolution of friendship throughout history and the different philosophical perspectives that exist about it.
- University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children: Different Perspectives Game
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Philosophy for Children: Lesson Plans
- PLATO Philosophy Learning and Technology Organization: Teaching Elementary School Philosophy
- University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children: One Rule Game
- King Saud University: Philosophical Perspectives
- Satanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Friendship
- Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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