High school students bring philosophy to kindergarten


Introducing big topics to young children, 10th-graders at Oceanside High School’s integrated program visited the kindergarten classes at School #6 to teach philosophy.

The high school students made three visits, March 8, 11 and 18, and each time they introduced rules of philosophy, such as listening, respecting others’ opinions, saying what you think, and explaining why, to the younger students. Then they read and discussed ideas found in the picture books, “Frog and Toad,” and Margaret Wise Brown’s “The Important Book.”

High school English teacher Jennifer Frasca said the students’ philosophical teachings are based on the work of Professor Thomas E. Wartenberg and his “big ideas for little kids” curriculum.

“We started six or seven years ago and we train the kids so that they can then go into the rooms and facilitate completely on their own,” said Frasca. “And over the years, we’ve seen just so much organic change and their ability to discuss ideas at a higher level, which translates to skills in their writing as well. And it’s certainly building a sense of community. They’re visiting their old kindergarten teachers.”

The goal was to encourage students to think critically about ideas, about their own thinking and about engaging in respectful discussion, and some of the participating high school students discussed their takeaway from all the lessons they showed the younger students.

“[There’s] a lot more absorbing and they take up knowledge a lot faster than I thought they would,” said 10th-grader Anthony Pesce. “You would think that maybe their young age would hold them back with that but they pick up ideas really fast.”

The 10th-grade students were fully prepared for the presentation after practicing philosophy and learning the rules themselves, and also visiting the elementary schools three times. “It’s really important that they learn to think outside the box and maybe interpret things in different ways,” said another 10th-grader, when asked about the most important lessons that were discussed.

“I think we also talk about how to disagree,” said Pesce. “In our roles of philosophy, we tell them how disagreement is good as long as it’s respectful and like we teach that at a young age like is it something that’s really important. In this day and age when you disagree with someone, it can feel like you’re personally against them. But especially at their age, they don’t disrespect each other in any way. They’ll try to show why they’re right and the other person’s wrong. But they’ll do it in a very respectful manner.”

Frasca added, “The 10th-graders are able to guide them through that higher level of discussion, which is amazing. This is really one of the last things we were able to do, pre-Covid shutdown. To be able to now do it with no masks and see the kids are laughing, it’s really been amazing this week.”