Magis

On Friday 20 June we ran our second John XXlll College Primary Philosothon for gifted students at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. 83 students from 14 local schools attended. We started 9.30am in the Gallery Theatrette. From 10am until 12 noon we worked with art works from the State Collection in the Your Collection TodayGallery. Students were organised in groups. The facilitators who were either volunteer philosophy teachers, trained Gallery Guides, or our own Jane Roche, had a booklet with structured questions to help students access the art works and to open philosophical discussion. There were no correct answers, it was not a competition. We wanted to encourage the students to really explore abstract ideas. Each group had two different works to discuss before lunch. These are either in the Centenary Gallery or in the Gallery on the ground floor on the way to the Centenary Gallery.

After lunch each group will had a mystery philosophical question, in a sealed envelope. The group took the question with them to the Animal Ark exhibition on the first floor of the Gallery. There the facilitators helped the students in their group to explore the exhibition and discuss their question. Each group needed to appoint a student spokesperson. At 1.30pm the groups moved downstairs and back to the Theatrette to debrief. Once in the Theatrette each group's spokesperson reported quickly on the question they considered and what thoughts the group had in relation to the question. We finished at 2.30pm. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the day and it is obvious that next year many more schools will be involved. Given the size of the Philosothon the Art Gallery of Western Australia Education Officer will take over the management of the program for future years.

Students ponder thier mystery question in the Animal Ark exhibition

Our Year 6 student Sophia Matthews explores complex ideas with a fellow student from
St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls.

Other Magis activities continued this week. Media Club students met at lunch time on Wednesday, as did Chess Club. After school on Wednesday Magimation students worked on a project in the Library. Philosophy Club met on Friday and Astronomy Club met after school on Friday for a guest lecture. Our Mock Trials team had a resounding victory on Thursday night. Also on Thursday Night we ran our first Magis Carnival with Year 11 and 12 students from four other Catholic schools. Students worked in small groups facilitated by our staff philosophers Peter Mazur, Dirk Gleghorn and Symon Smyth-Kirk. After two discussion sessions students contemplated the origins of the universe while watching a thought provoking documentary on space. They followed this with a whole group discussion considering the question; 'Do we need the concept of a beginning?'

Again, the response to this Magis initiative for gifted students was overwhelmingly positive. A number of visiting teachers and students eagerly asked me when we might have another evening. The students were clever and really engaged for the entire event. I find it inspiring to hear our students discussing difficult concepts and considering different ways of viewing our world. In the introduction to the night I briefly discussed the role of philosophy in our lives. I encouraged them to always ask questions, as there is little chance of them suffering the fate of Socrates. Given their passionate engagement last night I think they will be asking questions for a long time into the future.

Year 10 student Samuel Lucas discusses the cosmos with Peter Mazur.

The whole group consider the necessity of the concept of beginning.

Groups work on their first question.