Think About It: Philosophy Camp

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By Rachel Lorch

(July, 28, 2015) - Students participating in the Department of Philosophy’s inaugural summer camp tackled a wide range of topics including the differences between animals and people, ethics and the self and the nature of change.

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, the week-long camp was run by four Ph.D. students passionate about the field and eager to share their love for philosophy with others. The camp drew a group of students ranging from 11 to 17-years-old who possessed a variety of backgrounds.

Caroline Buchanan, a Ph.D. student in the UK Department of Philosophy, spearheaded the camp’s creation. Outlining her main goals for the camp, Buchanan stated that she wanted to expose kids to the field, to show them what philosophy does and what questions it asks. Buchanan was also interested in giving students a chance to dig in and do a little philosophy of their own, bringing their questions and perspectives to the table.

“We encouraged them on the first day to think of a question that had been bothering them, a question about anything at all that they were just kind of stuck on, or that they thought was interesting and would like to try to figure out,” Buchanan said.

>>View Philosophy Camp photo album

In addition to the chance to journal and free write every day, students were guided by short lectures and a set of readings provided by the UK Ph.D. students. Engaging in group discussions led in turn by camp participants and Ph.D. students, the campers developed their critical thinking skills and learned to become more logical thinkers and speakers.

A group of four high school students involved in the camp, Mary Greenfield, Gabriella Epley, Tristan Zurhorst and Olivia Denny, appreciated the freedom of thought possible at the camp evident in the respectful nature of discussions, as well as the genuine interest of their peers in what each person had to offer. 

“I like collaborating. I like receiving opinions from other people that I can consider. We each have one point of view, and with people who have totally different personalities and points of view, you can expand your perspective,” Denny said. “In this camp, I feel a lot less pressure to make sure that my opinion is completely perfect before I say it. We are really building our ideas as we go along.”

Greenfield further added to the sentiment, discussing how well everyone got along at camp despite all of their differences. “I feel like at my school, there are a lot of people that just don’t care, and it’s easy to think, ‘Should I really be asking these questions’. But here, these people are just so cool and so unique. They think the same ways and they ask the same questions, but everyone is also just themselves, and that’s cool.”

The graduate students leading the camp were impressed by how diligently the students applied themselves, and were very happy about the positive response it received from parents and students alike.

“I think that it’s important to reach out to the community, and I think that the success of the camp is evidence that the community is receptive to this kind of thing,” Buchanan said. “We got a huge response with 25 applications this first year. I think that shows that there is a place for us as academics to go out into the community and do some good, and that makes me excited.”

Buchanan greatly values the support she received from the Department of Philosophy and the College of Arts & Sciences throughout the process of developing and running the camp, and hopes to expand the camp in summers to come. 

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