It has been just over a week since the IAPC week long Philosophy for Children summer workshop in St Marguerite’s Retreat in Mendham, New Jersey, organised by Montclair State University. To say it was the best week of professional and personal development I have had as a teacher and P4C teacher trainer would be an understatement. It was an intensive immersion into a rich philosophical world of dialogue and discovery - I have never learnt so much about something I thought I knew a lot about in such a short space of time.
There is no doubt that part of the success of this year’s Mendham experience was down to the truly international flavour of the participants with folk hailing from Ireland, Wales, Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Chile, Peru, Canada and of course the USA. The Lipman & Sharp vision of the pedagogy ran like a thread through all of our practise and allowed us to share alternative applications and techniques, which enriched our understanding and enabled our own Mendham community of philosophical inquiry to flourish.
Among the many treats to take away was the work we did with the original philosophical narratives written by Lipman and Sharp. The accompanying file block of discussion plans with each text highlighted the thought and care these two pioneers put into these materials and I can see the enormous value of them to any classroom teacher with an interest in philosophy. Although currently out of print the Montclair gang are in the process of scanning this material with a view to making it accessible online to anyone interested and I can see it sparking a new generation of purposefully written philosophical narratives for building communities of philosophical inquiry. Indeed, I am looking forward to sharing this with my students to see if they are inspired to collaborate and put pen to paper themselves. Keep an eye on the IAPC website for further developments. http://www.montclair.edu/cehs/academics/centers-and-institutes/iapc/
The video reviews of Joe Oyler’s work with primary school children demonstrating nifty ways to develop good argumentation was superb and the tricks and techniques he employed are things I will be sharing with colleagues and students alike. Similarly, Natalie Fletcher’s ‘Philosograms’ provided an excellent visual reflection method for students and I found myself wishing I could be a kid in Brilo’s Canadian Philosophy camps. Ariel Sykes gave us a comprehensive overview, and a little hands-on experience, of her P4C work with children and art in situ in museums and galleries. Her session was completely engaging and motivating but it also gave insight into the amount of work facilitators often expend in preparing for openness and exploration into a broad philosophical area.
Maughn Gregory expertly led us into completely different types of inquiries when he facilitated a Story Circle and a Contemplative Inquiry. Both were surprisingly moving and helped to illuminate the holistic and personal nature of philosophy. This is the joy of a community of philosophical inquiry, it speaks to a collective humanity, breaking the isolating barriers of ego and individualism.
We also had visiting academics, such as Alina Reznitskaya, who popped in to share research and to chew the fat over the joys and difficulties of measuring such a slippery thing as P4C progression and application in an educational setting. These set the scene well for David Kennedy’s final session on dialogic schooling which revisited the socially constructed binaries of child/adult in education and the constraints therein.
The extensive reading accompanying the workshop spans 50 years of scholarly contribution to the development and analysis of Community of Philosophical Inquiry generally and the Lipman/Sharp branch more specifically. I have enough to keep myself busy for quite some time.
Seeing P4C flourishing internationally was heartening and I strongly recommend the IAPC Philosophy for/with Children summer workshop to anyone who is interested in improving their understanding and practise of the approach. The future seems a little less bleak knowing there are collaborative, creative and caring thinkers established in education around the world.