PrimaryEthics@Home for Parents and Carers | October 2018

Welcome to term 4, and to PrimaryEthics@Home! This October edition covers a selection of topics taught in ethics classes in terms 3 and 4.

Visit the parents and carers hub for more about the program.


Intentions and knowledge: what might a whale know?

This topic begins with a humorous Norwegian folk tale that builds on previous discussions about the difference between doing something ‘on purpose’, and doing something ‘by accident’. Intention and knowledge form the basis of our discussion about the story of Kio’s Grandfather, who, when at sea, was saved by a whale. Did the whale, Kio wonders, really know what he was doing? …read more

Making things up, being cross and hurting someone

One reason we use meerkats rather than (human) children to explore motives and behaviour is to avoid any awkward situation that can arise if children recognise the described behaviour as fitting that of one or more members of the class. Another reason is that meerkats have complex social structures and communication, and in thinking about ethical issues, it is important that children understand the ways in which they are similar to and different from others – not just to other humans, but to animals as well…read more


Stage 1 (years 1 & 2)


What does it mean to be lazy? Is there anything wrong with being lazy? In this topic we use both classic tales (such as the Ant and the Grasshopper) and contemporary scenarios (eg Leo who won’t hang up his towel or put away his clothes) as a basis for students to explore and reflect on the views and attitudes they already hold about laziness. The questions and subsequent discussions guide them to think in a more structured way about what laziness is…read more

Courage, or being brave

In this topic we meet Squeaky and Quiet, two penguin chicks, who have different approaches to living among the dangers in their environment. Squeaky is very cautious in her play, while Quiet is quite adventurous. Together they must embark on a migration, and Squeaky shows her capacity for courage…read more

Stage 2 (years 3 & 4)

Should we keep animals in captivity? Reasons for and against

This topic aims to engage students in evaluating arguments for and against keeping animals in captivity and, in doing so, to extend their intuitive understanding of what makes a reason a good reason.

To explore the ideas, students in ethics class act out a story where they play the roles of alien scientists who have visited Earth. Is it ok to kidnap humans and keep them in captivity because they will be entertaining to watch? To help their leaders learn about the species? To safeguard the human population from extinction if something catastrophic were to happen on Earth?…read more

Understanding diversity

Using traditional Inuit practices on law and punishment, students consider how circumstances influence moral rules and practices which are adopted, such as the implications of stealing fish and fishing equipment.
Watch: Excerpt of discussion from lesson 2 of Understanding diversity (14 minutes)

Stage 3 (years 5 & 6)

Beliefs, opinions, tolerance and respect

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, right? But suppose we come across someone who believes mental illness is caused by demonic possession, or someone who maintains that people with paler skin are of superior intelligence to those with darker skin, or that physical violence is the best way to solve disputes?…read more


This topic gives students an opportunity to apply their moral reasoning skills to a topic they are all familiar with: teasing.

What exactly is teasing, though? Rather than begin by giving students an abstract definition, we work with their intuitive notions of teasing and support them to work together to formulate criteria that distinguish teasing from other practices, such as threatening or criticising…read more

Questions to help continue the discussion at home

The Primary Ethics approach encourages children to be curious and make their own discoveries so asking your child a question like ‘what did they teach you in ethics class today’ might draw a blank! Here are a few other questions that might help get the conversation started:

  • Did you hear anything that surprised you in ethics class today?
  • What stories did you hear?
  • Did you change your mind about anything?
  • Did you disagree with anything that anyone said? Why?
  • What was the strongest argument you heard?

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Thank you!