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New Collaboration with Mighty Writers:

We are excited about a new initiative with Mighty Writers. Mighty Writers is a not-for-profit that offers free workshops and activities for K-12 students in and around Philadelphia with the goal of supporting the development of writing skills. We began with a two week workshop which met (virtually via videoconference) for one hour each day as part of the Mighty Writers summer programming for students ages 8-11. The plan currently is to continue this same program into the fall, meeting once each week for eight weeks. Stephanie Wesson, graduate student in philosophy, has created the material for what is hopefully the first of a number of collaborations that combine the Mighty Writers mission of improving writing skills, with our P4Y goal of getting kids an opportunity to think philosophically.

The topics for the summer workshop were the philosophy of technology and the philosophy of nature, and each day of the program focused on a philosophical concept or skill, coupled with a writing skill. For example, to work on the philosophical thinking skill of perspective taking, and the skill of writing descriptively, the students were asked to write descriptions from various perspectives and taking on the identities of various natural entities. Another activity asked students to write a story from the perspective of something which has been taken out of nature, or placed back into nature. One student wrote of a dog, who when he returned to the woods, realized he was a wolf. These activities also developed concepts in metaphysics, such as what makes something what it is. Another activity used poetry writing to help students develop the use of metaphor, and to see how a metaphor can sometimes explain abstract concepts like emotions, more clearly than a description. The technology unit explored similar concepts. One particularly successful lesson involved the students writing a dialogue between a person and an artificial intelligence entity, such as an Amazon Echo device. The students were then asked to reflect on which is more like a human, the Amazon Alexa, or a dog.

We look forward to more work with Mighty Writers and these great young students!