Grade Level: Middle School

Noises in the Night

A NOTE FOR TEACHERS: I’m interested in helping young people think skeptically and philosophically about concepts like knowledge, belief, evidence, fact, and theory. I developed the Vinland Map exercise for this purpose (in a philosophy of science class for gifted teens); I then wrote Noises in the Night as a way of starting similar conversations Noises in the Night

Robots at Work

Many students, even those who are quite young, are aware of the rapid pace at which technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are developing. This lesson entails an exploration of what the world might look like if all human jobs become automated, or done by robots. Are there jobs that humans can do that a robot Robots at Work

What do you know? An Exercise about What Knowledge Is

The full lesson plan is available as a PDF in the Lesson Attachment area above. Our whole education is organized around “buckets” of knowledge: “2+2 = 4” (math bucket); “Hydrogen is an element but water isn’t” (chemistry bucket); “Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809” (history bucket). But philosophy (and especially epistemology, the study of knowledge) What do you know? An Exercise about What Knowledge Is

What’s the Point?

Man with hand on face

Have students answer the prompt: “I am wondering, what’s the point of _______?” with as many responses as they can think of. Make a list of their answers and then vote for which ones the group would like to discuss first. Think together about what the point is of the thing in question. Might it What’s the Point?

Mr. Brown’s Precepts

Cover of book Wonder. Illustration of face with only one eye on it and word wonder above the eye

Many 4th, 5th, and 6th graders have read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio and will be familiar with Mr. Brown’s monthly precepts. These are inspirational sayings the teacher, Mr. Brown, puts on his board monthly for his students. For example, the precept for September is “When given a choice between being right or being Mr. Brown’s Precepts

Is it Dessert?

Half an orange and whole orange

Using whatever piece of fruit you have available, ask if that fruit is dessert. With this simple prompt, a rich discussion about the nature of dessert will develop. Is anything you eat after a meal dessert? Is it dessert if you ate it without eating a meal first? Can it be dessert if it is Is it Dessert?

Do You Know You Have Hands?

Hands painted in multi colors

Philosophers question what others take for granted. Asking young people whether they know they have hands (or feet, eyes, or ears) can be a wonderful way to have fun while practicing careful thinking. Start by asking “Do you know you have hands?” If the child responds, “Of course I know I have hands!” you can Do You Know You Have Hands?

Philosophy of Emotion

Poster for movie Alike - cartoon image of yellow child and blue adult

Stimulus: Play the short film ‘Alike’ (found in the Video Tab above) as the stimulus for the lesson Sharing: Generate concepts/questions/ideas that come from the film. These can be anything at this stage. They might include: why did they change colours? It was about feeling sad. It was about how bad school is. Younger children Philosophy of Emotion

Philosophy of Kindness


Introduction: Have students draw up a page with two columns. Title one side ‘kind’ and the other side ‘unkind’. Get them to list actions or behaviours that they have done themselves, had done to them, or witnessed being done to others into each column. This introduction gets them working on their prior knowledge of the Philosophy of Kindness

Trolley Problem Ethics

trolley car

See the Lesson Attachment link above for a PDF of this lesson plan. Stimulus: Introduce Scenario 1:1 1:1: You are a train driver. As you are driving you look ahead and see 5 people trapped on the tracks. There is no way that you will be able to stop the train before running them over Trolley Problem Ethics