Zoom Philosophy Classes
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
The winter 2023 series will be an eight-week session with philosophy classes for students ages 8-12.
Classes will meet on Zoom every Wednesday at 4 pm PT, beginning January 11, 2023. There will be no class on February 22 and the last class for the series will be March 8.
The cost for this eight-session series is $275 for non-members, or $240 for PLATO members (donate to become a member here).
Please register using the form to the right (or below on mobile). See details for payment in the Registration and Payment tab. Registration is not complete until payment is made.
PLATO values the experience and expertise of its instructors and is committed to compensating them for their work. Scholarship funds are available for families who require financial assistance.
Questions? Email email@example.com.
Registration and Payment
Please use the form to the right (or below on mobile) to register by no later than 5pm PT Monday, January 2, 2023.
The cost for this program is $275 for non-members, or $240 for PLATO members (become a member here).
AFTER registering using the form on this page, please pay by clicking here or clicking the “Make Payment Here” button at the bottom of the form on the right.
PLEASE NOTE: Registration is not complete until payment is made.
What Students Say
Middle School Online Ethics and Philosophy Series
PLATO is offering an online series of ethics/philosophy classes for middle school students (ages 11-14) this year.
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.
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: Nic Jones, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy, University of Washington
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
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.
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.
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
– Ten-year-old philosophy student
– Nine-year-old philosophy student
– High School philosophy student
– 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.
As part of our commitment to expanding access to philosophy with young people, PLATO organizes events specifically geared towards families. These events are free, open to the public, and located in accessible community locations (such as libraries and public schools).
Families are welcome to bring children of all ages to these events where we provide snacks and drinks and create an inter-generational community of philosophical inquiry. After briefly introducing attendees to philosophy with young people, we facilitate a philosophical discussion using a prompt that is appropriate for a wide variety of age groups.
Past prompts have included the picture books The Other Side (Woodson), Gaston (DePucchio), Why? (Camp), The Big Orange Splot (Pinkwater), and The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Santat), and an activity about happiness. Following the prompt, we facilitate a philosophical discussion in much the same way we do in classrooms around the country.
These programs empower families to engage philosophically with their children at home— while reading, working on homework, doing chores around the house, or any time a deep question arises. For families who have students in schools served by our philosophers-in-the-schools program, they get a glimpse of the deep and enriching discussions their students are experiencing in philosophy during their school day and gain tools for continuing those discussions once the children are home.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.