Philosophy, the "love of wisdom," begins with wonder about the world. It is one of the oldest academic disciplines, but traditionally it has not been considered a subject for children. Yet, in many ways, young people are natural philosophers. They as philosophical questions and are curious about philosophical issues: how do we know things?, what is beauty?, how are the mind and body connected? Young people do not need to learn philosophy; it is something they do.
Philosophical inquiry helps students to develop strong critical and creative thinking skills. Philosophy emphasizes excellence in thinking by posing questions about the basic concepts that make up our understanding of the world, and students engage in philosophy by inquiring about the meanings of these concepts. They read texts that raise philosophical issues, and the issues that are most interesting to them are discussed in structured classroom dialogues. These discussions do not involve talking to students about what philosophers have said, but inquiring with them in open-ended and thoughtful dialogues about philosophical ideas. As part of the work of exploring these ideas, we ask questions, suggest imaginative and new ways of approaching philosophical problems, read stories, draw pictures, role-play, create poetry, and engage in other forms of creative expression.
Young people find these dialogues compelling, in part because there are no settled answers to the questions being examined. The environment created by this open inquiry illuminates ways for students, and particularly those students who may be otherwise somewhat disconnected from school, to become involved in an intellectual adventure. Philosophical communities of inquiry emphasize thinking for oneself. Students are encouraged to ask and construct relevant questions, to develop their own views and articulate reasons for them, and to listen to and learn from one another. Philosophical inquiry helps students to develop heightened competence in reasoning and logic, increased confidence and ability to examine novel issues critically and imaginatively, and enhanced listening and empathy skills.
The Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children was founded in 1996 in the Seattle, Washington area, and became affiliated with the University of Washington’s Department of Philosophy in 1999. The organization's primary purpose is to introduce philosophy into the lives of young people. The center is an independent, not-for-profit organization, funded primarily by grants, tax-deductible donations, and workshop fees.
Our principal activities are the "Philosophers in the Schools" program, which brings people trained in philosophy into K-12 classrooms to do philosophy sessions with students, our teacher-education workshops, and our parent-education project. Since its founding, the Center has introduced philosophy to over 2,000 students in more than 50 schools around Washington State. Students in philosophy classes taught through the Center range from preschool through high school. Over the past decade, the Center has run over 25 workshops for teachers and parents about ways to facilitate philosophy discussions with young people. The Center is also a founding sponsor, with the American Philosophical Association, of Questions: Philosophy for Young People, a journal that publishes philosophical work by and for young people.
For more information, please contact us.
Jana Mohr Lone (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director Jana Mohr Lone is the founder of the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children and affiliate faculty at the University of Washington's Department of Philosophy. Since 1995 she has facilitated philosophy sessions with kindergarten to high school students, and introduced college and graduate students, K-12 teachers, parents and others to methods for bringing philosophy into young people’s lives. She is the author of The Philosophical Child, a book for parents and others about ways to inspire philosophical conversations with children (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), and writes the blog Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People. Jana is the chair of the Advisory Board of the new national organization PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) and co-editor of Philosophy and Education: Introducing Philosophy to Young People, a compilation of papers based on talks given at the first PLATO Conference at Teachers College, Columbia University, in June 2011. Since 2009 she has been chair of the American Philosophical Association Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy. She spends a lot of time talking with her three sons about questions such as whether life has any meaning.
David Shapiro (email@example.com)
Education Director David Shapiro is a faculty member at Cascadia Community College, where he teaches college philosophy classes that draw heavily upon his experiences and lesson plans for doing philosophy with pre-college students. In his role as Education Director of the NW Center for Philosophy for Children, he has been doing philosophy with young people in and around the Seattle area since he was a graduate student at the University of Washington way back in the 20th century. David is the author and/or co-author of six books, including most recently, Plato Was Wrong! Footnotes on Doing Philosophy with Young People, a compendium of activities, exercises, and games he has developed for exploring philosophical questions in the classroom and beyond.
Sara Goering (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Program Director Sara Goering teaches philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle, Department of Philosophy, where she is also a member of the Program on Values in Society. During her graduate studies, she did a philosophy for children training at Montclair's Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC), and then co-founded a summer philosophy camp for high school students and a philosophy outreach program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At California State University Long Beach, she helped to create the Center for the Advancement of Philosophy in Schools (CAPS), which trained college students and partnered them with local teachers to lead philosophy discussions with young thinkers from 4th grade through high school. The Long Beach program also ran a summer philosophy institute for "at-risk" Long Beach high school students. Now she co-teaches the UW philosophy for children courses, which send undergraduate teams out to lead weekly philosophy discussions with young students in the Seattle Public Schools, and co-organizes summer workshops for teachers. In summer 2011, she gave a TEDx talk on philosophy for children.
Center Board of Directors
Jana Mohr Lone