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Philosophy in Schools: Wicomico County Schools and the Salisbury University Philosophy Department

group shot of philosophy in schools

Since the Fall 2014, our department has established a collaboration with Wicomico County schools to offer philosophy-based activity to k-12 students.

At Pinehurst Elementary, students in the Philosophy Department with Dr. Cristina Cammarano have been leading weekly philosophy meetings with a second grade class and their teacher, Mrs. Todd. We have also collaborated with Mrs. Wood’s enrichment activities with a smaller group of children who has been taking philosophy with us for more than a year now.

The activity consists in having a philosophical dialogue on questions generated by the children. For 45 minutes, children think and talk about questions such as: “Am I really unique?”, “Did the world exist before I was born?”, “What makes something beautiful?”, “What are manners?”, and so on. They learn to express a view, to listen to others, to agree or disagree based on arguments and examples, and to develop ideas creatively and critically. Children are natural philosophers because they wonder about things constantly and they reflect on their thinking.

In the elementary school, philosophy is part of a skills-based curriculum. It can help students and teachers meet MD 2013-2014 College and Career-Ready Standards, with focus on skills such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration

In the Fall 2015, we started visiting Bennett High School, where college students facilitate an after school Philosophy Club with high school students. The club meets every other week at the high school. Co-advisors of the club are Mr. Chris Callaghan and Mr. Keith Donoway. Our discussions so far have considered questions such as, “What is human happiness?”, “Is reality real or is it an illusion?”, and “How do we make moral decisions?”. We have also read and discussed texts by Plato, Aristotle, and contemporary moral philosophy.

In 2016, a Maryland Humanities mini-grant enabled us to offer a professional development workshop to teachers on integrating critical thinking skills in classroom activities. We also organized a "Celebration of World Philosophy Day" at the local public library with second and third-grade children, SU student volunteers, teachers, and chaperones. Mr. Perdue, the science teacher at Pinehurst Elementary, worked with Dr. Cammarano and SU philosophy students to plan and teach a two-month module of Philosophy of Science for fifth graders.

Moreover, an SU student volunteer and Mr. Pegg at Parkside High School led a well-attended series of after-school meetings about social and political philosophy, and students in the seventh grade at Wicomico Middle School were offered Philosophy-based discussions as well.

Finally, 2016 also saw the introduction of our handmade puppets (artist: Mrs. Patti Filutze) to help children recognize metacognitive acts during philosophical discussions.

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World Philosophy Day, 2015
Photo Gallery
Philosophy Pic 1

If you teach at a local school and are interested in this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact Cristina Cammarano at cxcammarano@salisbury.edu. Thank you! We look forward to collaborating with your school.

If you are a student at SU and are interested in participating, please contact Cristina Cammarano at cxcammarano@salisbury.edu for information about the next training session and volunteer selection!

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