Stage 1 topics 2018

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Topic 1: Pride: Vice or Virtue

Should we be proud of things we’ve made? Proud of what we do? The things we have?

Can we be proud of things others do? Such as a friend, or a sister?

Can we be too proud?

Questions of pride are complex. Aristotle considered pride to be a virtue, second only to wisdom, while the Bible favours humility and casts pride as one of the ‘seven deadly sins’. Aristotle considered undue humility to be a vice, because an accomplished but excessively humble person is not being true to himself.

Justified pride, then, it can be argued, is the midpoint between vanity and arrogance at one end, and undue humility on the other.

So, like most ethical issues, the question, ‘When do we have a right to be proud?’ cannot be answered with a single, simple answer, and children and adults alike will offer a range of viewpoints when asked to respond to scenarios in which pride is a factor.

Illustration of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus

In our first topic for the year, we use everyday scenarios to consider when characters may and might not feel pride in a situation.

Should Jack be proud of the science experiment he develops for the competition? Should he be even more proud because he made it all by himself? What if Jack doesn’t receive any kind of prize or recognition for his work. Should that have a bearing on how he feels about his effort?

Why does Jess say she’s proud of her little sister Elsa for scoring two goals in soccer? Does the fact she helped her practice come into it?

We finish the topic with a review of the powerful Greek myth, Daedalus and Icarus to help students consider whether we can be too proud.

ACTIVITY

You may like to read the tale of Daedalus and Icarus to your child.

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Topic 2: How important are the reasons?

“Why can’t I have another ice cream?”

Children have a natural urge to ask “why?” and to seek reasons from their parents, carers and others. On the flip side, they may often make bold assertions without providing any associated reason at all:

“I get the first turn.”

Sometimes children resist considering reasons when making a decision:

“I don’t care what you say – I’m not going to share.”

In How important are the reasons, we aim to scaffold students’ thinking so that they begin to reflect on the processes of giving reasons themselves and unearthing the reasons of others.

Using stories and questions, we encourage children to think for themselves about:

  • Whether it is important to have good reasons for what we believe and do; and
  • Whether it is always okay to follow a directive or copy the behaviour of others without understanding the reasons on which the directive or action is based.

Why is it so important that our beliefs and decisions or choices (and the actions that flow from them) are based on good reasons? The obvious answer is that this strategy gives us the best chance of forming true beliefs and making the best decisions or choices, or in the case of moral judgments and actions, doing what is right.

Good reasons are relevant and strong, and in this topic the children practice working together to build good reasons, rather than reasons that are weak or not closely enough related to the questions asked. The skills required to identify and evaluate practice are revisited and practised in later topics.

Nod the echidna

In this topic, we hear about an echidna called Nod, who ends up in a sticky situation when he copies the behaviour of others without understanding their reasons at all.

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Topic 3: Are you the same person you used to be?

Is seven-year-old Jack, who is 130cms tall and can run, play the flute and read chapter books, one and the same person he was at 10 months old, when he was unable even to walk or talk?

If so, what is it that makes him one and the same? In this topic we invite children to begin to think for themselves about what constitutes a person’s identity over time. Is it established by physical continuity or psychological continuity?

chrysalisWe meet Harry and Harley, two caterpillars that develop into butterflies. While they remember what it was like to eat leaves, they don’t do that anymore. Is Harley still Harley, even though he looks quite different to the way he used to? We help the two friends try to figure it out.

Gus has lots of fond memories of being with Grandpa, and things they have done together, like look for crabs and shells in the rock pools when the tide goes out.

As Grandpa gets older, though, he forgets many things – like where he went to school, books he’s read, and he sometimes even forgets Gus’ name. Even so, Grandpa is still as kind and patient as ever.

Grandpa has lost most of his memories. Do you think he is still the same person he was when he used to take Gus and Jack to the beach?

ACTIVITY

Memory Game What can you remember?

This game is about memories, and what it would be like if we lost our memories.

I will read out a question that starts with ‘Can you remember…’ it might be ‘Can you remember the name of the teacher you had in Kindergarten?’ I will give you time to think and you can answer when your answer is ready.

  • Can you remember what you had for dinner last Saturday?

Follow up with: What was it? Did you like it?

  • Can you remember what you did at lunchtime yesterday?

Follow up with: What did you do? Was it fun?

  • Can you remember what your favourite book was when you were five?

Follow up with: What was it? What did you like about it?

  • Can you remember what games you liked to play before you started school?

Follow up with: What were they? Did you play them on your own? Or with someone else?

  • Can you remember what your favourite TV show was when you were three?

Follow up with: What was it? What did you like about it?

  • Can you remember your first day at school?

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Topic 4 Laziness

What does it mean to be lazy? Is there anything wrong with being lazy?

In this topic, students discuss the idea that to be lazy is to take the path of least resistance; that is to choose, from the options we have, a path (or action) that requires little effort when there is another, better action open to us that requires greater (but not an unreasonable level of) effort.

Students discuss the scope of the term ‘laziness’ and, more particularly, whether it extends to an unwillingness to put effort into one’s thinking.

Ant_and_the_GrasshopperIn this topic we use both classic tales and contemporary scenarios as a basis for students to explore and reflect on the views and attitudes they already hold about laziness, and guides them to think in a more structured way about what laziness is, whether it is always bad to be lazy, and, if so, why it is.

We meet Leo, who can’t be bothered to hang up his damp towels (which get smelly) or put away his clean clothes, so that they all get mixed up in a heap together and his parents have to do much more washing.

His mum and dad often remind him about the towels, and his clothes, but he would prefer to keep playing on his computer so he doesn’t do it.

Activity   

Read our adaption of Aesop’s fable ‘The Ants and the Grasshopper’ to your child.

In the story, the ants work hard to gather food while the grasshopper sings and plays violins.

Discuss with your child: Was the grasshopper being lazy?

Should the ants share food with the grasshopper? What do you think, and why?

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Topic 7 Courage or being brave

We see many examples of courage in the stories we read, see and hear. We would probably all admire the courage shown by someone who runs, for example, into a burning building to rescue a child.

Nelson Mandela said: I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Aristotle saw courage as a virtue, a strength of character necessary for human wellbeing (or flourishing) and the middle ground between foolhardiness and cowardice.

This topic supports children to think for themselves about the idea that courage involves overcoming fear, and more particularly about:

  • Whether overcoming an unfounded fear – a fear of something that is not actually dangerous – counts as courage (or bravery);
  • Whether we can be said to be courageous if we fail to recognise the danger we face;
  • Whether being able to overcome our fears helps us to accomplish some of the things that are important to us.
  • Whether courage is a desirable aspect of a person’s character and one we should all strive to develop.

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.

We look at fear and courage in ‘real life’ scenarios involving moths, sharks, swimming and diving, and discuss the way our different characters behave and possible outcomes for each.

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