Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Philosophy and preschool

Just got back from a really inspiring meeting - you know the kind, where you feel both uplifted but at the same time exhausted.
Liza Haglund (Södertörns Högskola) was our philosophical guide for the evening - parents and staff met in a circle to get philosophical with each other...

First we were given the opportunity to ask questions, and it seemed that essentially the parents wanted to know how to define what a Philosophical Preschool is - what is the difference between a traditional Swedish preschool, Montessori preschool, Waldorf/Steiner preschool and a philosophical preschool.

My brain is still swirling around these thoughts, and ALL of what has been said and discussed this evening - but I will raise just this - as it resonated within me...

This was how I interpreted Liza Haglund's explanation of what makes a Philosophical Preschool stand out...

At traditional, Monterssori and Waldorf/Steiner preschools the focus is on the individual child - how can each child develop in their own way.
At a Philosophical preschool the foundation is to see the individual as part of a collective, that we create an awareness that we need others. That the children learn to think together, that we need different perspectives, the possibility to see things another way. We all need help to see what is best for us - this can be achieved by listening to others...
so as preschool teachers we need to support the children to

  • learn to listen
  • partake in dialogues
  • appreciate other's ideas - and then be able to make your own informed decision.
How should this be applied to the preschool setting?

As teachers we need to listen, to take notice of the children's questions and to be able to ask follow-up questions. To save children's questions for a time when they are ready to listen and talk - children do not always have time to discuss a question they have just then... The saved questions can then be related to a story or an activity at a later date... "This story reminds me very much about that question you asked the other week..."

Of course, the children need to ask questions - and if questions are not forthcoming they can be stimulated with the use of art and stories - what do they think about e.g. a picture of a baby with devil horns and tattoos? Their thoughts can be collected and helped to form questions...

In the beginning for an infant philosophy may be as simple as what is suckable and not suckable - sorting thoughts about the world around them. 
Giving children coloured animals to sort we can observe how they sort - is it by colour, by animal type, by size, or climate where they come from... if we observe the children's method of sorting we are also seeing their thoughts, even before they are verbalising with words. By the children being exposed to alternative ways of sorting they are also being exposed to alternative ideas - the same group of animals/figures can be sorted in several different ways - the child can then choose if there is one that s/he prefers - their first choice, or maybe a new one - or maybe yet another develops inspired by one of the alternatives...

Philosophy is more than just words...

The Reggio Emilia approach also has a philosophical approach, where the children work together, collaborate their different ideas to reach a solution or to start a project... and within the RE Approach there are a "hundred languages" - its not just words to express thoughts, ideas and opinions - and philosophy - but through all their languages - movement, art, patterns, science, dance, song, music, sensory, nature etc etc etc...

Well that's all my brain is going to cope with this evening ... 

Please write down any feedback in the comments or on the Interaction Imagination facebook page - create a dialogue... 

Philosophy - The Love of Wisdom

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