Philosophy for Children and Community of Inquiry


At Elwood Haynes Elementary

Philosophy for Children (or ‘P4C’) is a growing movement that promotes a community of inquiry among children as young as three years of age, and has several cognitive benefits, as shown by a number of studies (see  Colom 2014 for a longitudinal study). The benefits have been most pronounced with at-risk students. The method begins with a ‘stimulus’ for discussion, such as Are You My Mother? by Eastman. The facilitator then solicits questions prompted by the text from the children. Students might ask: how did the baby bird know what his mother looked like? If he could tell what his mother looked like, why did he make mistakes? When can you know that you have found what you are looking for? The children decide which questions they should focus on. The facilitator then guides discussion on these questions without jargon. After the discussion, the group reflects on what went well and poorly in their conversation. The children then may journal or create art in response to the inquiry. For a short handout on Community of Inquiry, see here. For my short lecture on Interdisciplinary Community of Inquiry, see here.

In Summer 2017, I attended the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children’s Summer Workshop, where I received training in facilitating philosophical dialogue for children. In Fall 2017, I taught a practical course on Philosophy for Children, focusing on teaching students how to lead a philosophical dialogue. Most importantly, my 15 students worked with children in a local elementary school engaging children in philosophical inquiry for 8 weeks. (See a press release here.)

As a result of this course, one of my students, Jacob Castleberry, and I co-organized a workshop in March 2018 bringing together long term P4C practitioners, local elementary school teachers, and philosophy students for a day of training, leading to further philosophical activities in local schools.


Meta-cognition: on a scale of thumbs up to down….

In Summer 2018, collaborated with Joe Keener (English) to create a summer camp aimed at community of philosophical inquiry for middle-school kids called Think, Imagine, Create. The children used the philosophical discussion to write, direct, and perform their own short play. If you are interested in philosophy summer camps, take a look at Brila’s website (here).

In Spring 2020, I began facilitating philosophy with 3-5th grade children at Graden Elementary school in Kansas City. I am collaborating with two education majors and one philosophy minor on this project. We call the program Think, Imagine, Create. We meet with these kids once a month. Each week we have a short discussion, reflection, and create. Questions we have discussed so far include: What is an idea? What makes something imaginary? When does something become art?