Professor Rob Wilson (BA Hons '86) from UWA’s School of Humanities is the founder of the Philosophy summer camps for children here at UWA.
Known as “Eurekamps” [YOO]+[REE]+[KAMPs] the day camps for children round out each activity with a community of inquiry which engages critical, creative, caring, collaborative and careful thinking.
As a third year undergraduate student, Professor Wilson became interested in Philosophy for Kids and grew inspired by the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) in the United States.
“I became incredibly enthusiastic after attending a presentation at UWA by Ann Margaret Sharp, the Associate Director for the IAPC at the time.
“I saw how teaching philosophy to children might work and I strongly believed in its potential beyond the US,” Professor Wilson said.
From experiences in both Canada and the US, Professor Wilson learnt what could be achieved in Australia.
“After my travels to the IAPC in New Jersey, I was inspired to run the first WA conference on philosophy for children with 50 teachers in Yanchep.”
“From there I ran a university extension program with teachers and worked directly with teaching philosophy to children over 8 weeks,” Professor Wilson said.
25 years on, Professor Wilson and his team have set up a not for profit PEiPL Ltd (Philosophical Engagement in Public Life) which, in collaboration with UWA, run School holiday camps each year. The programs are aimed at kids aged 6-13 and are proving very popular, with attendance increasing each year.
“At the camps, kids learn activity based skills but also get to digest the activity ideas through safe and inclusive communities of inquiry,” Professor Wilson said.
A current activity program, ‘Food for Thought’ is all about getting children to think about the ethics of food production, consumption, taste, health and much more.
“What is our food, what counts as food, where does food come from, how does food connect us to the rest of the world, how does food help us build connections with people and how do we waste food,” Professor Wilson said.
“It gives them hands on experience while asking broader questions - that’s the philosophy bit and the kids love it. I knew from working in schools that they would.”
Eurekamp Oz! Staff are sourced from UWA’s philosophy undergraduate cohort through UWA’s Workplace Integrated Learning (WIL) program.
“Undergraduate students are passionate about making a difference, and through WIL they quickly develop the self-knowledge if they have the aptitude to work with children,” Professor Wilson said.
Dr Kaz Bland a Philosophy Lecturer in the School of Humanities and co-director of Eurekamp Oz! has several Philosophy in Community projects that engage a diverse array of people, from refugees to youth involved with Mission Australia’s DAYS program, Kaz is passionate about teaching people how to think, not what to think.
“I see philosophy as being very practical, a method of thinking carefully and critically about big problems,” Dr Bland said.
“I like that whilst there may be no solutions, there are better and worse ways of thinking things through.”
Another of Dr Bland’s roles is the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s local and Australasian Philosothon Coordinator. Taking the form of a 'community of inquiry' (COI) students from a diverse range of schools collaborate to discuss big questions about which there is much disagreement.
Awards are then given to the place winning schools, individuals from each year level and the Most Promising Philosophers. Philosothon student alumni now study at UWA, many take philosophy classes.
Nick Veugen is a Eurekamp leader, a UWA Philosophy student and also this year’s Arts Union president.
"I absolutely love camp time. The activities and discussions we get up to are very fun and the conversations I've had are incredible, from having one little girl come upon the hard problem of consciousness all on her own, to debating the fairness of taxes with 11 year olds,” Mr Veugen said.
“It's very rewarding and I love seeing into the big worlds and big feelings of these young minds, and I hope to one day see more philosophy with children across Australia.
“I believe it can help equip the next generation with the tools they need to face the problems of their time with compassion, justice and understanding."
Learn more about Eurekamps here
Find out more about the next Philosothon here.
PEiPL runs an EO Scholarship program based on equity considerations; there is an Association for Philosophy in Schools (APIS WA) organisation that supports philosophy in schools. Find out more here