The mindOUT programme was mounted originally by what is now the Philosophy discipline within PPR. In response to the rapidly increasing interest in philosophy among students in schools and sixth-form colleges, outreach and on-campus study events for students from Year 5 to Sixth Formers (including support for A-level students and teachers) have been available since 2005. The programme has to date involved students from some 60 different schools across Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
This programme continues, and has now been extended to include events around political and religious studies themes.
The programme offers sessions that are inclusive, challenging and involving. Events introduce and explore key concepts in the relevant areas, introducing classic figures and writings as appropriate. Our methods are informed by academic teaching, 'philosophy for children' methodology and extensive school experience. We combine film clips, stories, pictures, role-play, games and other stimuli with group and individual work, structured research and whole-class teaching in order to engage all students to the fullest possible extent.
We work with younger students on exciting and surprising questions:
- Could animals ever talk?
- Could your pet be your best friend?
- What does it mean to be brave?
- What's fair?
- What makes you you?
- Can anyone tell you what's right?
At this level, activity-based thinking about ideas and concepts sparks creativity and develops key skills in communication, enquiry and evaluation.
For older students we extend the citizenship curriculum at Key Stages 3/4, or Sixth Form General Studies, by addressing topical political, moral and social issues, including:
- new biomedical science and technology;
- climate change and sustainability;
- mental health, deviance and morality;
- communities, rules and laws.
- evolution and religion (visiting Planet Dawkins);
- terrorism and security
- freedoms and their erosion in the surveillance society;
- fundamentalisms (how science, knowledge, culture and religious commitment interact).
Grappling with the underlying concepts here - rights, responsibility, knowledge, the role of science, "nature" - is thinking for real, while effectively developing learning and thinking skills. Reasoned argument and critical engagement build team-working and participation. Structured research, group and individual work reinforce creative, responsible, and reflective learning.
For Sixth Forms
- Study Days for students working on topics for AS/A2
- Extension events introducing students to structured thinking about issues of contemporary importance.
Outreach and on-campus study days are arranged in response to specific requests. They can also be combined with campus visits. Normally events are free to participating schools.
Engaging with Philosophy
We have also developed an alternative to the current Philosophy A-level using the new Extended Project Qualification. Find out more about Engaging with Philosophy including sample materials.
A pupil's view
by Cathy Spence, aged 14, from Chesire
We all gathered patiently outside, eager to begin the day discussing thought-provoking topics and issues. I have never studied philosophy before but the subject interested me considerably. I have always had an inclination for questioning ideas and beliefs.
After a short brief on the topic we were about to embark on, we were presented with the first philosophical question of the day - "can we ever really know anything?" To begin with, I had a strong opinion on one side of the argument. Nevertheless, as we were presented with further opinions and viewpoints, I realised that it was not that simple and I was now more confused! Even as we uncovered more and more ideas, the questioning increased.
As the day progressed, we moved on to our next session - analysing arguments. We looked at how the arguments were constructed and how they could prove or disprove philosophical theory.
After a short lunch break we had an ardent desire to return to our work. Subsequently, we ventured into the computer laboratory to play on a variety of philosophical internet games. I found these to be extremely amusing, yet on the other hand very enlightening! Afterwards, we looked at an entirely new topic: "can the body be separated from the mind?" This issue raised many engaging opinions and provoked a heated debate.
Finally, at the end of the day, we were required to write our own views on a philosophical idea - using all of the techniques we had discovered throughout the day. This was a very challenging exercise!
After a very tiring yet satisfying day, I have learnt much more in the field of philosophy. It has taught me to think in depth and much more clearly about some aspects of life and not take everything at face value as we are often inclined to do.
A Teaching Assistant's view
by Jen Taylor, Religious Studies undergraduate
I started working on the mindOUT scheme in my second year at Lancaster, and it has provided me with numerous opportunities to work with children from all key stages discussing a variety of different areas concerning politics, philosophy and religion. Within the programme I have not only had the chance to share my knowledge with students, but it has also enhanced my own teaching skills which has been perfect in preparation for my PGCE next year. The sessions allow the students to discuss and explore areas of politics, philosophy and religion that they don't always have access to in school and opens the students up to discussion and debate. The students we teach always comment on how much they enjoy the sessions and the amount of new knowledge and skills they have gained which is always amazing to see!