Starting early enquiries
Early enquiries are essentially book or play based activities used to build the skills needed for rigorous philosophical thinking. The activities can be used across the age range 3-11 but outcome will be dependent on experience and language development.
The following is a transcript of an enquiry with nursery children on developing a Zoo.
I explained that I was going to play a game with the children using the Zoo equipment.
Facilitator: we are going to do some thinking about this ok?
Child: you’re building a cage for the animals
F: I’m doing a cage for the animals am I? ok…
C: I know what you are doing I have thought about that
F: Ok what do you think I am doing?
C: A cage for the animals!
F: You as well? Put your hands up if you agree that I am making a cage for the animals
C: No you’re not – you are going to put the animals after
F: Put the animals after?
C: you are making a zoo!
F: I am making a zoo? So you are looking at this and saying “ah! Mrs Stanley is making a zoo”. What is a zoo?
C: I went to the zoo! They have got trains! And where you can play somewhere
F: Do all zoos have trains?
Children: No! No!
F: Stop, what are the rules in philosophy? You can’t talk and listen unless you..?
Children: find your space
F: Ok so if I say to you “What is a zoo?” what would you say?
S: It’s where animals live.
F: A zoo is where animals live. OK. That is a statement.
C: It’s an animal’s home. They live there but they don’t live there all the while. They go home and live in their cage.
F: Ok so they live there. But not all the time? They go home to their cage somewhere else?
T: Yes. They live in a cage in Africa.
F: After they’ve been in the zoo? Can you explain a bit more?
T: Animals come from different places ,they can’t all come home but some can
F: So some animals go to the zoo and then some animals can go home to …?
P-: Africa or wherever their real home was.
C-: But if they live there then they need to live there for a long time. They don’t live in a house.
T: They do
F: OK T tell C why they do live in a house
Tyler: Because they do
F: That’s not a good enough reason. How do we know that they are living in a house? Are their houses the same as people houses?
H: No they are not. Not this house. If you have a big cat it’s going to be a big pet and it can’t even fit through the door
F: OK. So you are saying that animals can’t live in houses?
J: You can have rats as pets
F: Is that to do with houses?
J: Yes, they can fit through the door
F: Oh I see so are you saying that you could have a small animal because it would fit through the door?
J: Yes. In a cage.
F: Why does it have to be in cage?
Hn: Because that would run off
F: So you would keep it in a cage because it would run off?
M: It would get lost
F: Does anyone know anything else about a zoo that we haven’t talked about yet?
E: All zoos have flamingos
F: Do all zoos have flamingos?
Js-: Some do. I went to Africa Alive and I saw some flamingos and they had a baby.
F: OK I am going to play my game now. You all think this is a zoo. It says “Welcome to Wanju Zoo”. It’s got some writing on it. Here’s the turnstile where you pay and get your ticket.
(The animals are lined up at the turnstile)
Js-: Why are you putting them there?
F: You can be guessing if you like. That’s part of the game.
C: I think they are the first animals in
F: They are the first animals into the zoo? And what’s going to happen then when they come through the ticket office?
H: How will they get them from the ticket man?
K: Their teeth!
F: So they are going to get their ticket from the ticket man with their teeth?
Ct: I know what the elephant will do – he’ll get his trunk
F: So the elephant is going to use his trunk? You think they are all waiting to buy a ticket?
P: I think they are going to go in their pen
Hry: But the lion will probably eat it
F: Eat what?
Hry: The ticket
F: The lion will probably eat the ticket?
H: You’ve got to put him in his cage now!
F: Well he has got to wait his turn hasn’t he? It’s not his turn yet
C: Just get him and put him in his cage
F: What just get him? How will I lift him? I’d need a crane to lift a lion!
T: I can, look!
F: I think he’s got to stay there in the queue. This is the next part of the game – are you watching?
(The Facilitator puts the people in the cages)
E-: Why are you putting people in the cage?
F: You can guess
R: Because the lion will eat them?
Lk: Maybe because they are waiting for a pet?
F: Could you repeat that?
Lk: The lion might bite them?
F: So why are they in the cages then, how will that help?
Lk: Because the lion wants to eat them
F: But why would they go in a cage if a lion wants to eat them?
Lk: If they were real people and they knew that a lion wanted to eat them it would be tricky to get them in the cage
M: But the lion was only pretend
F: Well then why are they in a cage?
P: Because it’s part of our game!
F: It’s part of our game but what are we trying to think about? Anybody see any problems?
P: Maybe it’s a different kind of zoo where animals pet people?
F: Animals come to the zoo to pet and look after people?
P: Well the giraffe and the elephant and zebra would but not the lion
F: So what’s different about the lion?
K: Because he might eat people
F: So who can come into the zoo then? R, can you come and choose an animal to come and buy a ticket.
(R chooses the zebra)
F: What would the zebra say?
R: Please may I have a ticket?
F: Can this zebra talk?
R: He would say brrrrr!
F: And if he said brrrrr! Would we understand what he was saying?
P: What if the person at the ticket machine wouldn’t know what the zebra was saying? But if they did then he could go through
F: Can we understand what animals are saying?
M- Some people can and some people can’t
C: The animals might not understand what the people are saying
P: If some people could talk zebra then they won’t let them go in
F: So ..some people might be able to talk zebra? How do we know whether we can understand animals or not?
M: They won’t understand. The zebra won’t understand what the people are saying. All of the animals in the zoo won’t talk. When I went to the zoo the animals didn’t even talk to me.
F: Who said that animals do understand people?
E: I did. My cat understands me.
F: Does your cat understand what you are saying?
E: erm no.
F: Who’s got a dog?
Hn: I have
F: Does it understand you? If you say “Come here” does your dog come here?
Hn: Yes but I always wave my hand my dog comes to me
F: So it understands you?
Hn: It understands me in a different way. It knows it wants to come here
R: If I say “sit” to my dog he will sit
E: if I say that to my cat he won’t sit because he’s not interested
F: So does only a dog understand you?
R: The dog does, but the cat doesn’t
F: How does a dog understand you and a cat doesn’t?
C: They can’t because they can’t even talk. They have got too many legs and we have got just two legs. They can scratch but we can’t
Js: But when we were small we crawled on four legs
P: They have got two legs. The front ones are actually their arms but they are walking on them.
F: Js said that’s what we used to do when we were small. So were we animals?
P: I crawled
F: Does that mean you were an animal?
F: OK, shall we do the next part of the story then? All the lions are coming in. We are going to remove the ticket office so we don’t have the problem of communicating.
F:What’s the problem? Are you scared?
C: The lion might eat all the people in the land! He might eat the zebra?
F: That’s a problem?
F: Ok I tell you what. ( Moves lion & pretends to be lion)
“I am going to go and see these people over here, and these people over here”
Anybody else allowed in?
P: Zebra is allowed in
(The children take it in turns to put the rest of the animals inside the zoo. All animals are placed away from the lion)
F: Nobody has gone near lion! Why is lion all on his own?
T: because he’s probably scared of the other animals
Hl: the other animals are scared of the lion! Maybe they know that the lion is going to eat them!
C: but what if they didn’t? If they didn’t know he was a lion they might be friendly. When you are nice to them they don’t even hurt you.
Lk: Or the lion is going to eat them all up
F: Is the only problem here the lion? Are there any other problems with this zoo?
El: There is another problem
F: what’s the other problem?
El: The zoo is a bit messy
F: In what way?
El: Because the carrots are everywhere and the milk churn is everywhere
F: What do you think they are for?
T: They are for eating.
F: Who can eat them?
Lk: The lions, the animals
P: Well, I eat carrots. They are nice
F: P is going to take the carrots and feed the animals in the zoo.
(P picks up the carrots but starts feeding the people)
C: They are not the animals! They are the people!
F: But they are in the cage?
C- But there is the animals. The ones outside the cages
F: So these people aren’t animals?
J: No, those are people
P: Well we are actually animals
C: We are not!
P: We are animals, but we are just cleverer than the other animals
El: But we are not called animals
T: We are not even animals. We are humans
F: Ok P, What makes something an animal? What is the difference between people and animals?
P: People are clever. Lions aren’t as clever as people but we are still animals but we are just cleverer and we are animals like these.
M: Maybe they think we are animals?
Hl: We are not animals
R: I can talk like an animal
J: Because maybe they don’t talk yet?
F: So do you think the animals think that we are animals J?
J: No But animals don’t know that we are animals
F: Do you think it would be a good thing if animals went for a day out at the zoo to see other animals?
Lk: No! It wouldn’t
F: Would you go to a zoo that had people in the cages?
Hn: Police can trap people in cages. The police would take the animals out and put the people back in the cages
F: do you think these people are bad people?
C: They are in prison! Put all the people in there
(All the people are placed in one cage)
F: There’s a lot of people in there now is that ok?
M: No , the people are on people because what if they get squished?
F: But that doesn’t matter . They are all baddies now aren’t they?
Kl: but if they are gooder maybe they will get out?
C: It’s even a better idea to put them in the lion’s tummy
F: They should be eaten? Because they are baddies?
M: Some people try to not do things but they just do.
F: So you think that people don’t do things on purpose?
H: They don’t know what is what.
C: The work man will come and try and get all the people out and put the animals back in.
Time constraints meant we had to leave the enquiry at this point. However, I left the Zoo out for them and we developed the ideas of Zoos through stories, small worlds and role play for the following days. This enabled the children to further discuss the idea of differences between human and animals and freedom of both.