ACE Students Teach Philosophy through Children's Literature

November 10, 2015

Last spring, ten Carleton students learned how to teach philosophy through children’s literature in Associate Professor Daniel Groll’s course, Philosophy of Education and Philosophy in Education. Groll’s students thought critically about approaches to teaching philosophy, developed original lesson plans, and implemented them in a first grade class at Greenvale Park Elementary School.  

Philosophical discussions ranged from lessons in ethics using Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” to the philosophy of mind and epistemology in Frank Asch’s “Milk and Cookies.” Carleton student Alex Chang ‘16 found the class inspiring.  “The questions in our philosophy classes were questions kids already ask,” explained Alex.  “We saw kids becoming empowered to speak their minds, because the topics we were discussing didn’t have right or wrong answers.”

Professor Groll and philosophy majors Alex Chang ‘16 and David Racine ‘16 saw potential to build on the successes of the ACE course.  With the help of the CCCE, they’ve decided to expand the program to 4th and 5th graders at Greenvale Park Elementary School’s after-school PLUS program starting this Winter.  

“We hope this program will help empower kids to think creatively about complex problems,” explained Alex.  “Our education system is increasingly based on results and the more time a child spends in school, the less questions they ask.”  Alex and David are excited to help kids ask big questions through leading weekly philosophy sessions at PLUS. Providing much needed infrastructure to help students engage with a community partner and explore their passions beyond the Carleton classroom is core to the CCCE’s mission.