Young Philosophers on nature

Sydenham Hill Wood

The Philosophy Foundation took 22 children in total from Dalmain, Kelvin Grove and St Joseph’s schools to explore and think about nature from the inside.  We were met by a conservationist, Sam, who guided us through the woods, helping us to find a suitably immersive place to have a philosophical enquiry on nature and the naturalness of our surroundings.  At first it seemed quite obvious that the leaves, trees and ground that we stood on were natural, whilst the pieces of wire being used to make paths for us to walk along were unnatural (or less natural).  But after some philosophical jumping back and forth through the children’s ideas, the concept of human interference or influence over these natural objects made just about everything seem less than natural, even at first glance!

After some deep and thoughtful discussion, we were told some history of this piece of South London woodland and how the whole of England was once a ‘wild wood’.  But that the woodland we see now in Sydenham and just about everywhere else in the country has to a large extent been created and changed by human interference, bringing plants from other countries and changing the makeup of woodland to suit local people’s needs throughout history.  So perhaps none of the woods we know today are truly ‘natural’.

We moved up to the wildlife gardening centre – a surprising little nature reserve stuck between a grid of roads in a Peckham residential area. The children were split into groups to investigate the wildlife that they could find in the wildlife centre: bush beating, rock turning, pond dipping, bird spotting, plant species counting – searching for plant life, animal life and recording as much information as they could – just like real conservationists.  Once enough data had been collected the children entered into a debate about whether they thought this area, large enough for a great deal of housing ought to be built on or left as a nature reserve.  The children had some brilliant ideas again, showing signs of impressive abilities to cooperate and think together about the importance and value of nature as something that is both a curiosity for themselves and a home for so much other animal and plant life.

One of the yr 6 teachers said she spoke to them after the trip and said that one typically silent, disinterested pupil “was the most animated I have seen him all year!”

One of our philosophers noted that one pupil had evidently never experienced pond life close up. He was apprehensive at first but eventually was delighted that he overcame his fear of holding newts and allowed one to run over his hands. The discussion on the bus back was lively and excited:

“I never knew wildlife could be so interesting.”
“It was long but worth it”
“[It was] exciting to catch and look at all the animals”
The young Philosophers

The Young Philosophers programme is now preparing to build on the successes for next year. We are going on a trip to the Unicorn Theatre for children, we plan to visit the offices of the Guardian to tackle the subject of journalism and, with any luck, we will get in to the houses of parliament and give the pupils a chance to have their say on what we need to do there!

If you are interested in offering an experience to the Young Philosophers group please contact the project leader

Or if you would simply like to support us please check out our donations page.

Posted by Steve Hoggins on 21st June 2016 at 12:00am