CampUs for Young PEiPL

CampUs: Adventures in Ideas

Rob Wilson
Karen Bland
La Trobe University

Philosophy out of schools was first developed in Canada, taking form since 2008 in Eurekamp! Adventures in Ideas for Curious Children.  It is a descendant of traditional inquiry-based methodology pioneered in the 1970’s under Mathew Lipman and Anne Margaret Sharp through the Institute for the Advancement of the Philosophy for Children (IAPC).  While the IAPC program remains a crucial inspiration, in philosophy out of school we substitute activities, games, tours, laboratory and theatre visits, field day-trips, and guest speakers for the written stimuli – novels, discussion plans, and exercises – at the heart of the IAPC approach to generating philosophical dialogue with and between children.  Our goal remains the same: recognizing the philosophical in the everyday, and engaging with those everyday philosophical issues as a way of developing habits for creative, community-based inquiry.

Our method, however, is to not simply to adapt the discussion plans and exercises that structure a typical philosophy for children in a classroom but to offer ways of generating philosophical dialogue more directly suited to after school care, summer camps, and other out of school environments.  Broadly speaking, every activity is built with the following progression in mind:

  1. Stimulus;
  2. Question Building;
  3. Discussion; and
  4. Reflection.

The stimulus is nearly always a collaborative activity such as a project, game, or tour.  Because each of these is designed to be interactive, it keeps children involved, thinking, and interested.  When we arrive at a question that is of interest to the group and of the sort that can be answered by discussing with others, then we’ll take time to have that discussion.  When this happens the goal is for participants to arrive at a consensus about what is most reasonable to believe.  We care a lot about thinking and we aim to engage children in such a way that they too learn to care about thinking too.

            As a former Eurekamp! Leader (Bland) and director of Philosophy for Children Alberta (Wilson), we are currently working toward adapting the Canadian philosophy summer camp model to the Australian context, beginning in Melbourne, Victoria, where a confluence of factors make this a natural starting location. Our initial plan is to run a week-long, philosophy-out-of-school “day-camp” at La Trobe University in November 2018 as a trial for a more extensive range of camps in 2019.  

The program is currently being articulated by one of six working groups within the recently-established group Philosophical Engagement in Public Life (PEiPL network).  PEiPL currently consists of 40–50 active members and draws on philosophers at all Melbourne universities and non-academic community members, including teachers.  The Young PEiPL CampUS programs will be developed in collaboration with students, faculty, staff, and professional educators from across campus and the PEiPL community, with the goal of getting participants excited about exploring ideas – big and small – through active exploration, discovery, and inquiry.

            We would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation for you to join us for a workshop on activity-based communities of inquiry and a development of this introduction to philosophy out of school. 

The programs are taking shape and the poster is going out to schools next week. We now want to run two free workshops with lunch provided.

The first, run by Rob, will be a general introduction to the activity based philosophy for kids methodology and is open to anyone who is interested.

Proposed date: 9 am – 12 pm, Friday 26th October.

The second, run by myself, will go through the programs in detail and prepare those involved directly in the pilots for the following week.

Proposed date: 9 am – 12 pm, Friday 16th November.

Please let me know availability. We are aiming to run both programs concurrently every day of 19th – 23rd Nov, or perhaps the following week, depending on uptake from schools.

All instructors must have both WWCC’s and have also completed and provided certification for the La Trobe University Child Safety Standards Training, which is a 30 minute online module. We will need to set this up for non-La Trobe folks and it is something that perhaps could be completed after Rob’s workshop.

Unfortunately, due to budgetary restrictions, this first round will only be able to employ two people/program. At the moment that looks like it will be myself and Emily for ‘Who am I’ and Nik and Chris for ‘Am I a Good Sport?’. We would really love at least two people to participate as volunteers each day. Volunteers will need to attend both training sessions, they will have their WWCC paid for and will receive a lunch voucher each day that they participate. The aim is to train volunteers up to take more substantial paid roles with the expansion of the programs next year. Please let me know if you are interested. 

Look forward to hearing from you soon,

Karen Bland
Seminar Leader, Interdisciplinary Studies School of Humanities & Social Sciences | La Trobe University

The following description is being sent out to schools this week in the form of a poster. Depending on uptake, we are aiming to run the pilot programs each day of 19th – 23rd November.

Young PEiPL Adventures in Ideas: a creative thinking skills program for youth

The PEiPL network (Philosophical Engagement in Public Life) was formed in Melbourne in November 2017 by Professor Rob Wilson at La Trobe University. Its members come from all walks of life, and they share a common belief that philosophical engagement has benefits for all in society, young and old alike. One working group in PEiPL has initiated La Trobe University’s Young PEiPL program, offering adventures in ideas for local youth with a focus on developing critical and creative thinking skills. It does so by having students construct a community of inquiry over the course of the day organized around a given central question – ‘Who am I?’ OR ‘Am I a good sport?’ – utilising active and student-centred learning methods.

Our programs are fun, engaging, and educational. We provide games, activities, tours, and guest speakers to help students realise the philosophical in the everyday. Well-tested stimuli provide the cornerstone for each of our programs, with peer-to-peer dialogue about interesting ideas at the heart of the day’s activities. Research has shown that enquiry with peers is one of the most effective ways to build a community of inquiry developing thinking skills; beneficial for the further enhancement of abilities needed in subjects from mathematics to English.

We focus on curiosity, creativity and cooperation through active participant directed programs. Crucial to sorting effectively through today’s mixture of information and misinformation to make wise choices is the skill and ability to think carefully and reflectively about ideas, whether our own or those of others. Students should expect to participate in enjoyable activities while engaging with BIG ideas and questions that matter.

Short bios

Rob Wilson is professor of philosophy at La Trobe University, and was the founder and director of Philosophy for Children Alberta from 2008 until 2015, and recent cross-university initiative Philosophical Engagement in Public Life (PEiPL).  His most recent books are The Eugenic Mind Project, published by MIT Press in 2018, and Relative Beings, a book currently under review. 

Karen Bland recently submitted her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Adelaide and is a sessional instructor at La Trobe University.  She developed the “Food for Thought” camp at Edmonton’s Eurekamp! and is the team leader for the Young PEiPL working group in the Philosophical Engagement in Public Life (PEiPL) initiative, based in Melbourne.

Posted in Workshop.