EDUCATION - Art & Philosophy Workshop - The ME Book Project

Project led in 10 classes of primary school from first grade to sixth.

Why is it interesting to practice philosophy with the children?

From the age of 3 years, suprised by the world, the children start to ask themselves existential questions about life, death, human relationships, morality, politics, happiness. The child has the gift of a new and curious outlook on the world (naive but not innocent): he/she asks incessantly « why? » and other questions about the essence of things. But what should we do with those questions?

—Philosophy with children has developed in Europe over the last 20 years approximately. At the same time, thanks to the support of psychology and psychoanalysis, society started to grant the new status of ‘thinking subject’ to children. This means children need to be guided in their own existential and intellectual journey.. Youth literature is progressively giving a bigger space to those metaphysical questions and The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales(psychoanalysis of fairy tales) by Bruno Bettelheim describes how children’s real concern is to be able to answer those big existential questions.

—The institution of school passes on knowledge but unfortunately not always the meaning of that knowledge and the desire to learn. However, meaning is essential to understanding the world. How to give meaning? By asking questions about life, death, happiness and so on. This move should be preparatory to the learning of other subjects to impart and give them more meaning. But those questions are too often forgotten, because of a fear of talking about them or a lack of time.

—The idea is to create a space entirely dedicated to those questions, a scope for an initiatory encounter with oneself and the others, where there are no winners and no losers, no right or wrong answers.

A bit of History

—Philosophical discussions adapted for children appeared in the seventies. The bases were set by an American philosopher and educationalist thinker Matthew Lipman.

Initially, key questions included:

—How to give children access to philosophy? How to develop their critical mind to maintain the balance in our democratic societies?

—According to Matthew Lipman, instead of thinking that only school can give education as a special type of experiment, we should reverse the question: every single thing that can help to find meaning is education and school also, as long as it helps in this way. It means that everywhere meaning is created (sense built by the child, not given to him), there is education.

—The adult tries to avoid questions and to stereotype answers. The child learns by asking questions and by putting the world in order creating a logical thinking. But the system, by giving questions and answers slows down the process. Practising philosophy with children puts logic and questions back at the centre of the process.

—To do that, we need to put in place the right conditions to give the child the opportunity to catch what will give meaning to the things in his own universe with his natural curiosity and his search for meaning.

Aims and benefits

  • —Create a space for collective questions and reflections (where there are no right or wrong answers)

  • —Where the status of the child will be reconsidered as that of thinking subject

  • —Awaken him/her to the world by giving the opportunity to discover other points of view, acquire cultural keys to analyse and understand the world

  • —To develop a logical way of thinking and to answer big existential questions (and to satisfy his need for meaning and coherence)

  • —With the possibility of:

– an initiatic dicovery of one’s self

– self-assertion  : make personal choices, come to terms with them, accept one’s self, accept one’s own freedom

– through encounter with ‘the other’ : dialogue, exchange, debate and reasoned discussions

  • —Develop the capacity to express oneself, to assert one’s ideas and to listen

  • —To develop a critical mind and reasoning

  • —To learn to argue : work on one’s ideas, dig, find the limits and stakes, give reasons to believe in something

  • —To learn to create links and distinctions between fields

  • —To develop creativity and potential to create other worlds

  • —Acquire autonomy, become responsible by thinking by oneself

  • —To improve thanks to dicovery of the abstract

The ME book project

—Creation of a book of 4 cardboard pages (2 sessions of 2h30) . The Me book is realized by the child him/herself about him/herself.

– The cover is a self-portrait with oil pastel and permanent black.

– On the other 3 pages, 3 philosophical debates are illustrated. Those debates are linked to the Me and the personality’s development: difference, appearance and freedom (identity, acceptance, self-esteem, constraints and obligations). They are approached to awake imagination and open a new inspiration’s door.

Introduction: thinking about art and philosophy

—What is art?

—What art is used for ?

—What is philosophy ?

—What philosophy is used for ?

—Why did I choose to mix art and philosophy in this project?

Beginning: Why is it interesting for an adult to do this project here with you?

  • —To spend a moment with you and to take time to create something together. To give you space to dream, talk and create.

  • —Because we think you are intersting persons. Children have a different outlook on the world. An adult can also learn from children.

  • —Because the search of meaning is important for you children and for everybody to understand the world. We think it is important to sometimes think together

  • —To help you to understand yourself better, to know yourself better and to think about yourself.

  • —To allow you to assert and express yourself while respecting the others and while staying yourself.

  • —To help you to accept yourself better.

  • —To develop your creativity while discovering new inspirations

Development:  no model, instructions are given one by one

  • —Cover

- Distribution of materials, guidance, numbering, name (with pencil on the back).

- Observation of the face in a mirror (shape).

- Observation of the face’s elements and comparison of their positional) which fills this whole page.

-Observation of the face’s elements and comparison of their position

- Drawing of the different parts of the face.

- Go over the drawing with a black pen.

- Choice of a color in the oil pastels box for the favourite part of the face

  • —Preparation of pages 2, 3 & 4:

-Choice of three coloured papers (cut of 3 pieces out of them)

-Collage of papers on the different pages

-Observation of the remaining space for question and illustration

-Painting of the illustration’s part with white acrylic.

  • —Philosophical questions around the main topic: identity

- Difference: are you like the others?

- Appearence: do you like to look at yourself in the mirror?

- Freedom: do you choose who you are?

Collective structure: why is it interesting to ask ourselves those questions? What have we learned?

  • —To distrust ready-made judgments which prevent one from living and loving other people as they are.

  • —Not to imitate or not to try to be absolutely different

  • —To search if you need to be normal

  • —To take responsibility for your own existence even if you haven’t chosen it

  • —That to be free doesn’t mean avoiding obligations and constraints but confronting them while staying yourself

  • —To distinguish between what can and what cannot be changed. What is permanent? How to avoid chasing a fake or an impossible dream.

  • —That life helps you to understand slowly who you are

  • To know yourself better and to accept that you can’t always be what you would like to be

  • Not to give too much importance to the physical appearance and to discover that the real beauty is inside

  • To apprehend that the others’ outlook can also be a mirror for yourself

  • To find your way between the excessive love of yourself and the rejection of yourself

  • To know yourself better and to accept that you can’t always be what you would like to be

  • Not to give too much importance to the physical appearance and to discover that the real beauty is inside.

  • To apprehend that the others’ outlook can also be a mirror for yourself

  • To find your way between the excessive love of yourself and the rejection of yourself



  • TEDx conference by Dr. Sara Goering – Philosophy for Kids: Sparking a Love of Learning :

  • Philosophical children:

  • The benefits of teaching philosophical inquiry to kids on Philosophy Talk radio. An interview with Director Jana Mohr Lone

  • Experiment in Springfield school, Massachusetts:

  • Bassiri, A., Brown, K., Evans, M., Mascitelli-Morey, S., Pruitt, A., Vaidya, A., and Wartenberg, T., Implementing Philosophy in Elementary Schools, 2013, AuthorHouse

  • Jana Mohr Lone, The Philosophical Child, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012.

  • Thomas E.Wartenberg, Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Children’s Literature, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, 2014.

  • Lipman, M., Sharp, A., Oscanyan, F., Philosophy in the Classroom, 1980, Temple University Press

  • Lipman, M., and Sharp, A. M., Looking for Meaning, 1982, Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children

  • Lipman, M., and Sharp, A. M., Wondering at the World, 1986, Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for ChildrenLipman, M., Thinking in Education, 2003, Cambridge University Press

  • Lipman, M., A Life Teaching Thinking, 2008, Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children.

  • Matthews, G., 1996, The Philosophy of Childhood, Harvard University Press

—In French


Videos et documentaires

  • Conférence TEDx par le Dr. Sara Goering – Philosophy for Kids: Sparking a Love of Learning :

  • Documentaire Canal ARTE-France Quand les enfants philosophent, 2005 :

  • Documentaire RTS avec Michel Sasseville dans une classe en Suisse :

  • Documentaire « Un pour tous, tous pour un ! » sur le projet d’école réalisé par l’école de Lauzelle en Belgique («La différence : l’intégration des enfants de l’enseignement spécial dans l’enseignement ordinaire en 2009-2010 à réflexion sur la notion de différence et création d’un film d’animation en lien avec le sujet):



  • Moi, c’est quoi ?, O.Brenifier, Editions Nahtan, collection PhiloZenfants, 2004.

  • Un article de Edwige Chirouter « L’enfant et la philosophie »:

  • Une interview de Martine Nolis « Des ateliers de philo en classe »: