Topic 1: Questions, puzzlement and what is okay
One of the goals of ethics classes is to nurture children’s curiosity, as well as their own thinking abilities, so that they are motivated and confident enough to think well and for themselves about issues that matter to them.
In this topic we meet Mia, who likes asking lots of questions and finding things out. Mia asks her mum ‘Can I have ice-cream for breakfast?’ which might be a pretty simple question for Mia’s mum to answer. Mia sometimes asks her brother Oscar other questions which he finds hard to answer, like ‘How do fish breathe under water?’
And then Mia finds a slug in the garden, and she’s never seen one before!
“What is it?” Mia asks. “Is it a snail that’s lost its shell?” And then, picking up a snail, “if I took his shell off, would it be a slug?”
“No! Don’t do that!” Oscar yells. “Don’t!”
“Why not?” asks Mia. She has so many questions for Oscar…
Topic 1 aims to build on students’ developing capacity to recognise questions and answers as parts of speech, and to encourage students to think for themselves about:
- why it is that we ask questions
- whether we sometimes ask questions of ourselves
- why we might sometimes be afraid to ask questions of others, and
- whether sharing and discussing our questions with others can help us make progress towards answers.
Research indicates that supported, collaborative inquiry is one of the most effective means of bringing about understanding.
In ethics we use the term ‘community of inquiry’, coined by Mathew Lipman, to describe a group who puzzles over issues together and makes progress towards answers. For a community of inquiry to achieve its purpose, participants need to show respect for one another and for one another’s ideas by paying attention to whoever is speaking, by giving others a chance to speak, by not talking over each other and by refraining from ‘put-downs’.
These behaviours are captured in the ethics class rules for kindergarten, and a further aim of this introductory topic is to elaborate on the role of such rules – and the principles on which they are based.
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