About

Our programs are fun and engaging while also educational. We provide games, activities, tours, and guest speakers to help campers realized the philosophical in the everyday, all while providing solid stimuli for the cornerstone method of each of our camps: initiating dialogue with other campers about interesting ideas. As research has shown, inquiry with peers is one of the most effective ways to develop critical, yet caring, thinking abilities. Indeed, taking part in inquiry has shown to be beneficial for the development of math and and English skills as well. The capacity to think carefully and critically about ideas, whether our own or others', is crucial especially with the glut of information (some true and some false) which can often be overwhelming and contradictory.

Thus, the essence of all the programs we offer is captured in the name of the camp, the tagline, and the balloon girl silhouette. If you want to understand what we're about then these three things are really all you need.

To bring this essence to life we ground our general approach to camp program design in the inquiry based methodology pioneered in the 1970's under Mathew Lipman and Anne Margaret Sharp through the Institute for the Advancement of the Philosophy for Children (IAPC). While this program remains a crucial inspiration, we substitute activities, games, tours, and guest speakers. Regardless, our goal remains the same: recognizing the philosophical in the everyday and engaging with those issues as a way of developing habits for creative, community-based inquiry.

Broadly speaking, every activity is built with the following progression in mind: 1) Stimulus; 2) Question Building; 3) Discussion; 4) Reflection. Please understand that this process changes from instance to instance to fit the abilities and needs of the participants and in practice pieces regularly get skipped or happen out of order: there is no point in expecting 5 year-olds to hold a discussion at the level of 14 year-olds (although we've seen it happen!), sometimes it is just asking the question that really matters, and sometimes everyone just needs to run around, laugh, and have fun. Still, these four stages ground us and the programming.

Stimulus. The stimulus is nearly always a collaborative activity such as a project, game, or tour. Because each of these is designed to be interactive, it keeps campers involved, thinking, and interested. They are also designed to raise questions. From exclamations--That's not fair! --to ponderings--Can humans be pets?--we specialize making people go Hmmmmm...? While we have questions in mind when we design an activity we're never bound by these. A big part of staying true to camper directed programming is realizing that what comes up, comes up, and going with it when it does. And sometimes, just sometimes, nothing sticks for an activity and that's ok too.

Question Building. When questions do arise it is important to know just what they mean before trying to answers them. Every question may deserve an answer but not every question is good for the sort of community based inquiry that we are particularly interested in. It's also not much use to answer the question that was asked rather than the question that was meant to be asked. So, when a question does arise we always take a moment to be clear about just what the question is and to help the campers consider what to do with it.

Discussion. When we arrive at a question that is of interest to the group and of the sort that can be answered by discussing with others then we'll take time to have that discussion. When this happens the goal is for the participants to arrive at a consensus about what is most reasonable to believe. With this goal in mind the counsellors operate as 'facilitators' rather than 'experts', ensuring that the rules, fair play, and good reasoning established by the campers at the start of the week are respected.

Reflection We care a lot about thinking. We care so much that we take time every day to make sure that everyone has thought about their thinking and the other activities that happened throughout the day. With directed questions such as "Was everyone included?", "Did we listen to others who were speaking?", and "Did we think in new and interesting ways about the topic?" participants are given another opportunity to be the authors of their own camp experience by allowing them to reflect as a group and take action based on what they discover.