(Or: Why I've been absent from my (infrequent) blog for so long!)
This is very long overdue update to the blog, Engaged Inquiry. In part, it's a defense of why I haven't posted recently, but I'm also going to use it to recap what has been a great summer for Philosophy for Children Alberta -- as we begin to close out our summer camp program, Eurekamp, for which I am the director.
Eurekamp is a series of philosophy summer day-camps that were masterminded by the folk at Philosophy for Children Alberta. John Simpson, the previous program coordinator, was the founding director in 2009, a year which saw 25 youth join us for our activity-based philosophy day-camps. That year we had about 6 volunteer counsellors who helped deliver programming in our 'proof of concept year'. Since then camp has grown considerably. This year, we can happily boast 378 youth! This is up from 250 last year, our fifth year. There are also a gazillion pictures on Facebook: check us out there too!
Notably, thanks to a generous grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation, we were able to run two weeks worth of programming at Balwin School in Edmonton, as well as to offer a collection of fully subsidized scholarships to nearly 40 youth from all over Edmonton, bringing them onto the University campus to experience our programming.
We also continue to invite previous campers (now outside our camp age-range) to return as junior counsellors to help provide a great experience to new campers; we had the pleasure of 4 junior counsellors joining us this year for the opportunity. We also trained 18 counsellors, all of whom (happily) we are able to pay for their enthusiasm, dedication, and help in making Eurekamp what it is.
We've grown, in just 6 years, to a total of 10 activity based, week long programs that are offered to three age groups, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6, and Grade 7-9. This year alone we created 4 new themed camps. All told, we have camps themed around food, art, social media, science, imagination and play, logic, social justice, biomedical ethics, and 'hacking'. Each camp digs deep into the philosophical issues that (sometimes) sit on the surface of our experience.
For our youngest groups, we have the Food for Thought program (in its third year), which saw youth cook with chefs (like Zana Murray, from Stir Catering), visit a dairy farm, and think with freegans (who dumpster dive for their food). The Enchanted Arts program, (as one youth has been recorded saying) isn't just "crafts [like painting and drawing]. It can be dance and poetry too." To this end, youth learn Jai Ho, a Bollywood dance; we also had a visit from Razzle, a local clown. Our newest program for this age group is Playing Around the World. Here, the sole aim is to harness the power of the imagination and the joy of play in new ways. We climb trees, juggle fire, make giant bubbles, create Harry Potter wands (for witch and wizard duels), worry about enemies, and played real life minecraft with hundreds of cardboard boxes.
Grade 4-6 features three camps: Masterminds, Comm-U-nity, and Wondering at the World. There youth built wide-games, ran experiments, dug for worms, and puzzled through mensa games; they struggled with notions of fairness, visited the Bissell Centre to create art with local people who are homeless, thought about the nature of private property and the environment with activities like "guerrilla rock art", and constructed communities (from Lego blocks) while working through the questions of community engagement and membership, as well as notions of paternalism.
Gr. 7-9's Doctoring Curiosity, in its second year, saw visits from medical staff at the University of Alberta Hospital. They thought about infection and disease, questioned notions of parenthood, and learned how to suture. But, we also introduced two new camps this year: Truth and Lies which is themed around social media, and Digital U which is themed around making, breaking, and re-purposing the everyday, in various ways and forms.
Everything was so much fun!
And while it is good (indeed crucial) to 'just have fun' sometimes, nearly every activity we offer at Eurekamp has a philosophical purpose or intention behind it. These, coupled with our strong belief that we are obliged to hold dialogue with children around what interests them (and not just what I say should interest them, and certainly not just what interests us!), is what makes Eurekamp unique and has youth returning each summer, year after year, until they are old enough to play a role as a junior counsellor. [I've written about P4CA's methodology in the past and Eurekamp is formally no different: 1) Offer a stimulus -- i.e., an activity or game; 2) collect philosophical questions from participants; 3) hold discussion; 4) and then reflect on the nature of the discussion.]
Indeed, I believe that this is a strength of the philosophy for children program that is often overlooked. Dialoguing with youth about their own ideas, and not the ideas we have given them; about their own questions, and not just those that we provide from the outset; helps youth to realize that their ideas matter, are interesting, and can be deeply philosophically gripping. Listening to youth define, redefine, and reject understandings; formulate reasons, and then examine them; and take deep interest in what goes on around them, affirms their thought processes in a way that refines and cements the mindful, creative, critical thinking even of those who are very young. Listening allows us to see youth be swept up and carried off on an adventure with, and by, their ideas; it allows us, too, to see the world in ways that we forget we can, as we grow older and forget.
As we close down Eurekamp for the summer (this Friday's our last day), I can only hope to see you all (again) next year. Tell your friends! Everything we do during the summer helps us run during the school year. What we do between 'Eurekamps' is tweeted from @P4CA, and tracked on our Facebook page, Philosophy for Children Alberta, and our own webpage.