Later this week, 52 novice philosophers will find themselves in an imaginary universe of zero-gravity waterslide parks, Brussel sprout ice cream, dragon appointments and a spectacular array of perplexing questions. The year is 2353 and the young philosophers have boarded the Starship Paradox on an intergalactic mission to make contact with distant civilisations. As they travel, they’ll encounter problems that will shape the future of humanity – problems that can only be solved with collaboration, good judgement and open-mindedness.
This is the premise of Big Questions, an innovative school program we’ve created to help students think more effectively by thinking together. It’s the only program in Australia that connects primary school kids with highly trained philosophical thinkers.
We’ll begin by screening our custom-made short films to an audience of Years 4–6 students at Mahogany Rise Primary School in Melbourne’s Frankston North. The films are designed to ignite students’ curiosity and kick off a series of stimulating dialogues about questions like “What makes a good society?” “Am I free to make my own choices?” and “How do we know what’s real?” Working together in small groups, the students will enjoy an open exchange of views as they explore diverse perspectives on age-old questions.
For Mahogany Rise, Big Questions is an important initiative, offering unique learning opportunities to students growing up in a community challenged by severe socio-economic and educational disadvantage. We hope that participating students will experience the various cognitive, personal and social benefits that philosophical enquiry affords – such as developing better reasoning skills, building the confidence to voice their opinions, and learning to express disagreement in a respectful way.
During the past year, we’ve been training twelve volunteers – Philosophy students from Melbourne and Monash universities – to facilitate dialogue among the school children. We’re delighted to be working with such an exceptional team of volunteers and we hope they will benefit personally and professionally from the experience.
Please help us spread the word about the Big Questions program! Any parent, teacher or school community interested in bringing Big Questions to their school is invited to contact us with enquiries.
The Philosophy Club runs co-curricular and extra-curricular workshops for children in Australia.