The concept of doing philosophy with children has been around for more than forty years, beginning with the work of Matthew Lipman in the United States in the late 1960s. Lipman created the Philosophy for Children programme after becoming concerned with the lack of critical thinking skills displayed by his college students. He reasoned that students needed to be taught these skills much earlier in their educational journey in order to engage better at university level. Over the intervening decades, Philosophy for Children (P4C) has expanded to encompass much younger children, all around the world.
Philosophy for Children uses philosophical inquiry with children, namely through creating a Community of Inquiry (CoI). The aim is to create a collaborative, safe space where children are free to explore issues, ask questions, engage in dialogue and reflect on their thinking in a supportive environment. It is not necessarily about teaching children the subject of Philosophy but rather harnessing children's inherent wonder and curiosity about the world and encouraging them to philosophise. P4C is an empowering programme that acknowledges children’s capabilities to think and speak up for themselves. It respects their individual experiences and perspectives that they bring to the group (CoI) and invites them to become part of a learning community.
For me, the three Cs of thinking - Critical, Creative and Caring - are the back bone of Adventures in Wonder's programme. They share an equal weight of importance, as they form a foundation of best thinking practice. Critical thinking skills give children the capacity to think for themselves; creative thinking enhances imagination and problem solving; caring thinking fosters empathy and compassion. Together, they help shape compassionate, thoughtful and individual thinkers.
As an educator, I connected with P4C from the moment I came across it during my Master's research. I was interested in ways to empower young children in the classroom and give them more of a voice. I believe P4C provides the tools for children to articulate their thinking more clearly, encourages them to work through thoughts and ideas together, and fosters respectful communication. The possibilities of P4C are just as exciting to me now as they were then.