Teaching philosophy to 8- and 9-year-olds at St. Paul’s West 7th Community Center was the unconventional way that Vivian Ihekoronye ’13 (St. Paul) spent her summer.
Developing a fun and interactive curriculum that would both introduce kids to philosophy and truly engage them was Ihekoronye’s goal. An avid reader of philosophy since age 16 and the oldest of six siblings, Ihekoronye believed that children would have unique insights into topics such as friendship and ethics. “Kids are natural philosophers,” she says. “They always want to ask questions and to debate each other.”
With previous experience in community outreach programs such as the Lilly Project and the Lives of Commitment Program, Ihekoronye was no stranger to the field of education. She’d previously worked with the St. Paul Schools Foundation and taught critical thinking to a middle-school class.
Mapping her students’ progress throughout the course was rewarding for Ihekoronye. “At the beginning, they couldn’t even say the word philosophy,” she recalls with a smile. Toward the end of the eight weeks with her budding philosophers, she noticed an improvement in her students’ ability to exchange ideas, withholding argumentative impulses and listening better even in situations in which they disagreed.
And the learning process was a two-way street. Ihekoronye’s takeaway lesson: “It challenged me to be a more adventurous philosopher.”