Programs for Young People

Zoom Classes for Children


Our online classes explore some of life’s big questions, including topics such as friendship and loneliness, the treatment of animals, boredom and creativity, the environment, identity, and happiness. We use books, videos, games, and thought experiments to inspire discussions of the questions that matter to us.

Continuing students are welcome! Each series will use different prompts and explore different questions.

Philosophical inquiry is often valued for the way it promotes critical thinking. Just as important, it nurtures other essential skills, including empathy, creativity, civil dialogue, listening, and open-mindedness.

A typical one-hour session begins with the introduction of a prompt. Students then generate questions that the prompt inspires them to wonder about, and they choose the one that they would most like to discuss. The rest of the session is spent exploring the philosophical ideas involved in that question. No homework is involved.

We encourage students to help guide the direction of the conversation, and we use a combination of small group and larger group discussion formats.

To learn about our success doing philosophy online with children and youth, read this New York Times article.

Schedule of Classes

Registration for the spring 2023 series is now closed. Information about our fall 2023 series will be available in August.

Questions? Email

Registration and Payment

Registration for the spring 2023 series is now closed. Information about our fall 2023 series will be available in August.

What Students Say

Middle School Online Ethics and Philosophy Series

General Information

PLATO is offering an online series of ethics/philosophy classes for middle school students (ages 11-14) this year.

Series Topics: 
Fall: Animal Ethics
Winter: Environmental Ethics
Spring: Philosophy of Science

Each class will meet weekly for four weeks on Zoom.

Classes are entirely free, thanks to a grant from Charles Anderson and Pamela Gross through the San Juan Island Community Foundation. 

Applications for the fall, winter, and spring classes are now closed.

Class Descriptions

Fall 2022: Philosophical Topics in Animal Ethics

Tuesdays – 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, and 11/15
4-5:15pm Pacific Time

Other-than-human animals are a tremendous part of our lives. They are involved in our relationship to food, clothes, entertainment, experimentation, conservation, and companionship. In these sessions we will consider philosophical issues related to human/animal interactions and animals themselves. Questions we will consider include:

  • Why do we care about some animals but not others? How does an animal’s appearance or behavioral reputation influence how much we care about them?

  • Humans hold animals captive in farms, laboratories, zoos, entertainment facilities, sanctuaries, and in private homes. Are there differences in how ethical it is to keep animals in these settings? Does whether or not it is permissible to keep animals captive depend on what our intentions are towards them?

  • Is it right to harm individual animals of a certain species in order to protect that species from extinction?

Course Instructor: Karen Emmerman, Ph.D., PLATO Education Director

We are delighted to be collaborating with photojournalist, speaker, author, and founder of We Animals Media, Jo-Anne McArthur, who will lead the November 1 session.

Winter 2023: Philosophical Topics in Environmental Ethics

Tuesdays – 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, and 2/14
4-5:15pm Pacific Time

Like questions about our relations with animals, questions about human interactions with the natural environment are numerous and pressing. With widespread environmental degradation, global climate change, and concerns about loss of biodiversity, questions about human relationships with the environment are important topics to address. Questions we will consider include:

  • What does it mean to show respect for natural beings and things?

  • Is it right to think of natural resources as here for human consumption and use? Are there limits to how much consumption is acceptable?

  • What does it mean to be in relationship with nature?

Course Instructor: Cassie Finley, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy, University of Iowa

Spring 2023: Topics in Philosophy of Science

Tuesdays – 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, and 5/9
4-5:15pm Pacific Time

Many philosophical questions are related to science, the nature of discovery, and how to think about changes in scientific understandings over time. Students know from their experience with science at school that there are many philosophical issues raised by scientific exploration and discovery. Questions we will consider include:

  • How is science different from other pursuits like literature, math, and history?

  • How should we think about the way scientific “facts” sometimes change over time (e.g., shifting from the belief that the Earth is flat to the understanding that it is round)?

  • What values are important to scientific pursuit? How do we develop those values?

Course Instructor: Cassie Finley, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy, University of Iowa

Class Structure

These classes will be interactive and collaborative, requiring attention and participation of all students. Students should have their cameras on during class, as visual presence both enhances a sense of community and increases accessibility for all participants.

Barring unforeseen circumstances and illness, we expect students to attend all four sessions in a series. Consistent attendance is important for building community and deepening our discussions over the weeks we meet.

Philosophical conversations involve topics about which reasonable people can disagree. All participants are expected to arrive prepared to listen carefully, thoughtfully engage with others’ ideas, and bravely share their own thoughts.

Session facilitators will ensure we maintain a respectful and intellectually safe community of inquiry. Students will experience the joys of thinking together about the ethical and other philosophical questions on our minds.

High School Philosophy and Ethics Programs

Philosophers in Residence

PLATO’s philosophers-in-residence program, which has been in Seattle elementary schools for more than a decade, has expanded, thanks to a grant from the Whiting Foundation.

Beginning in January 2023, students in three high schools – in Medford High School (Greater Boston area), Academy at Palumbo (Philadelphia), and Rainier Beach High School (Seattle) – will enjoy regular philosophy sessions in their classrooms. The philosophers-in-residence will also help design new lesson plans, run professional learning community workshops for teachers, mentor college students, lead parent programs, and be available for consultations with both students and teachers.

We hope to continue to develop this program in other schools and locations around the US.

For more information, contact us at

Seattle High Schools

Philosophy and Ethics Program for Seattle High Schools

PLATO philosophy instructors are available, at no charge to Seattle Public Schools, to lead one or more sessions on ethics or philosophical questions that arise in the high school curriculum. These sessions are structured to reveal deep questions about the discipline and to further engage students with the material.

No experience with philosophy required.

For example, we offer sessions on:

  • The nature of knowledge
  • Justice and fairness
  • The meaning of infinity
  • Climate Justice
  • The relationship between facts and values
  • The aims of science
  • Animal ethics
  • The nature of law
  • and any other topic that aligns with a classroom unit.

For more information, contact us at

Download our flyer about this program!

High Schools Around the Country

Support for High School Philosophy Programs

PLATO is committed to fostering the growth of philosophy in high schools around the US, including supporting:

  • High school philosophy teachers interested in visiting other classrooms to lead philosophy sessions

  • High school philosophy clubs, in-person or virtual

  • Annual Philosophy Days

  • Student-organized philosophy conferences

  • Virtual speakers for high school classes on philosophy topics that align with classroom units

  • Virtual speakers for philosophy clubs

  • And other initiatives designed to bring more philosophy and ethics programs into high schools.

For more information, contact us at

Philosophers in the Schools


Philosophers in the Schools

PLATO’s “Philosophers in the Schools” program introduces young students in Seattle-area classrooms to philosophy in classes led by PLATO philosophy instructors and UW students. We use children’s literature and a wide range of activities to encourage curiosity and wonder and inspire exploration of some of life’s essential and unsettled questions, such as: Who am I? Is justice possible? What is a good life?

Young people are eager for engagement about the big questions that matter to them, and encouraging this interest helps them learn to trust their own ideas and questions. Because of its emphasis on constructing well-reasoned arguments, anticipating alternative points of view, and thinking analytically, there is no better education than philosophy for learning to think well. It is imperative that children develop the critical thinking and listening skills necessary for participation in a democratic society. 

Philosophy sessions create a community of philosophical inquiry — an intellectually safe environment, in which students develop confidence in expressing their own perspectives, listen to one another, and challenge and build on one another’s thinking. We are not teaching philosophy to young people — we are doing philosophy with them. These young philosophers come to appreciate that there are many ways to understand the world and that their own voices are uniquely valuable.


In 2013 the Philosopher-in-Residence project was launched in the Seattle School District at John Muir Elementary School with a grant from the Squire Family Foundation. The program expanded in 2018 to Thurgood Marshall Elementary School with help from additional donor support.  These are culturally diverse K-5 schools in Seattle’s south end; many of these students are among those least likely to have access to academic enrichment programs.

The philosopher-in-residence project helped to develop strong and sustainable philosophy programs in these schools by creating ongoing relationships with faculty members and staff, many of whom have engaged in professional development opportunities, and have attended summer workshops at UW.  Parents are also involved.    

As a result, both schools now offer philosophy in multiple classrooms across many grade levels, enabling students to benefit from philosophy discussions throughout their elementary school careers and fostering a philosophical culture throughout the schools.

We are now expanding this program to three high schools around the country, funded by a grant from the Whiting Foundation.

Thanks to the success of the philosopher-in-residence project, PLATO hopes to launch similar programs in schools in Seattle and around the country.

University of Washington Students

UW graduate and undergraduate students who take Philosophy for Children courses learn to “do” philosophy with young students by facilitating discussions on issues such as the nature of ethics, art, freedom, time, knowledge, and identity. These courses emphasize the “community of philosophical inquiry” model, according to which elementary school students are encouraged to ask their own questions, develop views and articulate reasons for them, and learn from one another. The emphasis is on learning by doing. 

UW students then placed in local schools where they facilitate discussions on subjects such as the nature of art, freedom, time, knowledge, and other topics, supervised and mentored by experienced instructors. These placements take place in part through partnerships developed with the University of Washington’s Riverways Education Partnerships, an outreach program that connects students with tutoring and mentoring opportunities in local schools, and the University of Washington College of Education

What Students Say

“I understand my own thoughts so much better after philosophy!”
– Ten-year-old philosophy student
“I now have a more refined ability to look at the things I think and do and say and figure out why I act the way that I do.  I think this ability is extremely useful because it provides a new way of viewing oneself that can help me become a better person in the long run.”
– High School philosophy student
“A lot of things are possible. A lot more things than we think.”
– Nine-year-old philosophy student
“I really like how it makes people think in a somewhat new way, such as looking inside, instead of just looking out.  It’s a different kind of thought process.”
– High School philosophy student  
“There are no barriers in our minds we can think of anything.” 
– Eight-year-old philosophy student



What Teachers Say

“Philosophy has been an authentic way to connect the children and their thoughts about the world, allowing for meaningful conversations. I have seen significant social and emotional development throughout the year, which I believe has been positively influenced by the philosophy sessions.”
— Second grade teacher at John Muir Elementary School, Seattle

“I have watched students who never participate in anything at school become excited and exuberant over the chance to express their ideas.”
— Teacher at Nova High School, Seattle

“Philosophy in my first grade classroom has been a powerful means through which my students have been able to wrestle with questions and express their thoughts in a safe yet challenging environment.”
— First grade teacher at John Muir Elementary School, Seattle

“In philosophy my students have learned to listen to others’ ideas and add to them or disagree respectfully.  I hear students who hardly raise their hands in class give intelligent, thought-out opinions or challenge others’ ideas.”
— Fourth grade teacher at Whittier Elementary School, Seattle

When teachers have ongoing philosophy sessions in their classrooms, frequently they become inspired to make philosophy part of their curriculum. This can happen either through regular sessions facilitated by PLATO personnel, or by teachers themselves following up with students to explore topics discussed in philosophy, eventually leading entire philosophy sessions on their own, and attending PLATO workshops for more training.

Intergenerational Programs


PLATO regularly runs intergenerational ethics events. These include programs for students and family members (example here) and for seniors and young people (example here).

We believe that ethics and philosophy are for everyone. We hope to provide resources and spaces for people of all ages to engage together with some of life’s deepest questions. In a world increasingly spatially and socially segregated by age, it is more important than ever to do so in an intergenerational way. 

The structure for these events begins with a brief description of PLATO and philosophy with young people. We then introduce a prompt that is appropriate for a wide variety of age groups and provokes thinking about a difficult ethics question. Following the prompt, we facilitate a discussion in much the same way we do in classrooms around the country — first in small, mixed-age groups with a discussion leader, and then in a whole group conversation.

These programs empower families to engage philosophically with their students at home — while reading, doing chores around the house, or any time a deep question arises — and provide an opportunity for participants to expand their insights into the perspectives of other generations. 

These events are free, open to the public, and located in accessible community locations (such as libraries, universities, and public schools).

For more information, contact