Report of the project “Philosophy S1 S2 Workshop”

Report of the project “Philosophy S1 S2 Workshop”

The Philosophy S1S2 workshop was established with the intention to introduce S1 and S2 students to the broad and extensive study of Philosophy.  Mr Van Kossem, a philosophy professor at KU Leuven and independent philosophical trainer, was asked to host the workshop on account of his knowledge and experience presenting philosophical reflection workshops for children and teenagers.  

At the beginning of the workshop, Mr Van Rossem introduced himself and the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates to the students.  He initiated how feelings, thoughts, beliefs and values are all related to philosophy and asked that this resonates with the students. 

Furthermore, he asked the students to break into TEAMS channels (10 channels with 3 students) with clear instructions; to each discuss a gift they received recently, ask one and other questions and then establish one question for each gift that they would discuss in the feedback session with Mr Van Rossem.  The coordinators visited the channels to ensure everyone understood, to assist translation of there was a language barrier and to make sure the instructions were being following.  They reported the interesting and mature discussions students were having and the questions they were constructing.  

After 20 minutes in the channels, the students returned to the general workshop meeting with Mr Van Rossem and presented their questions.  Mr Van Rossem wrote each channels question down and the students voted on the first question they would discuss; “does it matter what you wear?”.  Mr Van Rossem asked the students to vote by raising their hands and to reason, “yes, because” or “no, because”.  From there, students remarked and reasoned their opinions and a general discussion took place for 15 minutes.  The students engaged maturely and independently, openly expressing their thoughts and beliefs by giving examples and relating to personal experiences as well as societies norms.  The discussion came to an abrupt end as the duration of the workshop was only one hour however Mr Van Rossem asked the students to continue pondering and questioning their discussion, ensuring the basis of what they discussed and deliberated resonated with them. 

Feedback from coordinators 

“Overall, I believe the Philosophy workshop was very successful.  The students positively engaged with one and other in the channels and began to piece together how the activities they were completing and discussions they were having were slowly introducing them to philosophy.  The students really contributed and openly discussed their thoughts and opinions at the end with Mr Van Kossem and their peers during the feedback session.  The comments and feedback content was very interesting and mature and we could see the students independently contribute their personal thoughts and opinions.  Breaking the students off into channels lost valuable time that was needed in the feedback session as the hour was barely sufficient which we now know for the future. This workshop was dominantly in English however for future reference it would be an idea to establish a Philosophy S1S2 workshop in other languages, branching out to even more students.” (Maud Rowland, student S6ENB)

“As a child, I recall myself incessantly asking “the big questions” but the answers I received were always less-than-satisfactory. To this day, we, as a society, remain in sheer wonderment about such questions, first tackled by the likes of Socrates.  Through this workshop, the wonderment came from how adept the S1 and S2 students were when answering the question “Does it matter what you wear?”. Their answers and points were worthy of publishment!  Overall, this first-time philosophy workshop for S1s and S2s was hugely interesting and greatly succeeded in stimulating their curiosity and giving them the opportunity to reflect on deep questions in a reflective manner. Although it was online, the interaction remained highly productive and the cross-section and S1/S2 discussions were very engaged.” (Katie Jane Wickham, student S6ENB)

“The workshop was interesting and insightful. The S1-S2 students all participated well and were introduced to philosophy in a simple yet engaging way. Despite the online format adding unfortunate barriers that slowed several processes down the students kept up the energy and did the work asked of them.
Some of the issues did stem from the online situation we were forced to execute the project in, such as matters that were time consuming and took away from the time constraints. But in the end it went well and I found that the project definitely had merit and would be worth doing again.” (Nathalie Rommen, student S6ENA)

“Congratulations to the student-organizers who put together this philosophy workshop for some of our S1 and S2 students. With care and competence, they helped guide the young participants, asking them questions, translating for them, and encouraging them to speak up.
The participants themselves were quite impressive too: they were eager to share their stories, ideas, and questions. It would have been great if we had just a little bit more time for the big group discussion, which was expertly conducted by Mr. Van Rossem–but I suppose that is one thing we can keep in mind the next time another workshop like this is organized.” (April Capili, teacher)

Feedback from participants : 

“Wonderful workshop, I loved it that everyone was involved and that we all got to work together!! I would love to attend another workshop!”

“I think it was good that we could all express ourselves and listen to everyone’s opinion that was you could look at a conversation from many different angles.”

“It was very engaging and it was open to all opinions. I liked the group work too!”

“I think there were too many kids and I think there is too big of a difference between the way the S1 think and the S2 think to have them do it together. The content was a bit too basic as well.”

“There could have been fewer children and maybe a more challenging subject.”

“I think the workshop was really nice because the exercices were interesting and I learned a lot about the opinion of the others.”

The S1 and S2 students were introduced to the astounded and widely known ancient Greek philosopher Socrates who is credited with laying the fundamentals of modern Western philosophy.  As students only start studying philosophy in S6 secondary, engaging and introducing them to philosophy in lower secondary years will hopefully increase their interests in philosophy at a younger age and also enhance many important  personal qualities such as problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills.  During the feedback session, the students discussed and deliberated the different sides to arguments, challenging and developing their critical thinking and problem solving.  During a difficult time such that we are currently subject to, student’s lives are full of uncertainty and disorientation and many feel down.  We factored this in to the organisation of the workshop and centred the workshop around students engaging with one and other to try and lift their spirits.