Philosophy for Children

Bringing philosophy to K–12 students

The Philosophy for Children method

The P4C program consists of eight 45 minute sessions (one per week, or one every two weeks). The program can be extended or renewed upon request. Facilitators are professors, instructors, and graduate students from the University of Calgary Philosophy Department working in collaboration with classroom teachers.

How it works

Philosophy for Children occurs in circles of learners. The circles typically include children and adults, including a classroom teacher. In the first session, participants create a “community ball” made of yarn. The first session also emphasizes emotional, intellectual, and physical safety by stating and repeating the expectation that it is okay to say anything in the circle, as long as it does not harm someone else. This means that laughing at/teasing is not allowed within the circle, and that anything said in the circle should not be repeated in a teasing way outside of the circle.

Subsequent sessions discuss a specific philosophical topics. Examples vary according to age, but might include:

  • What is a friend?
  • What is tattling?
  • What is fun?
  • What does 'I'm sorry' mean?
  • Could there be two of you?
  • What is a good life?

Discussions proceed without the expectation of a “right answer.” Participants are encouraged to share what they think about a topic, listen to what others say, and be open to revising their own views. This includes the adults in the circle – and the teacher too!

Philosophy for Children top 10
Philosophy for Children students

Developing a philosophical tool kit

Over time, components of a “tool kit” are introduced to deepen discussion and develop problem solving and reasoning skills. Each tool is summarized in a word or phrase. Some examples include:

  • WHAT” do you mean by that?
  • What is the “REASON” you think that? (I think… “BECAUSE”…)
  • Can you give an “EXAMPLE”?
  • Are there any “COUNTER-EXAMPLES”?

Philosophy for Children is being done by students and teachers all over the world. It is done in different ways in different places. Our approach is to allow student-centred, student-driven discussions that use basic philosophical tools (the tool kit described above) to develop good thinking in a safe environment.

Student outcomes

We facilitate the development of students' academic and social skills. Research shows that students who participate in P4C enjoy gains in math, reading, and reasoning, as well as improved empathy, self-esteem, and confidence. Students from less advantaged socio-economic groups show the most improvement when compared to control groups.

Philosophy for Children also...

  • deepens the emotional, intellectual, and physical safety in the school.

  • cultivates the innate sense of wonder in children.

  • supports learners in appreciating others’ experiences and viewpoints.

  • supports learners in articulating their ideas and feelings.

  • supports learners in listening to others and revising their own opinions.

  • supports learners in explaining and defending their opinions.

  • develops conceptual analysis, reasoning, and problem solving skills.

  • supports communities of learners in evaluating the success of their community.

  • trains teachers to run P4C circles independently, and train other teachers.

Interested in bringing P4C to your classroom?


We invite inquiries from elementary, middle and high school administrators, teachers and students interested in participating in our Philosophy for Children Program.

Contact us

Please email inquiries to our P4C Coordinator.

Chris Framarin