The kids and I have entered our history studies again, this time exploring the Age of Reason (approximately 1600s and 1700s). We started with an overview of the timeline, both in Europe and in North America. After that overview, we spent some time with the philosophers that helped provide the framework for the advancements and revolutions to come. In the coming weeks, we’ll be moving into the scientists, arts and music, and then finish up with the American and French Revolutions.
We used a lot of resources for our study (check out my Curriculum and Resources page for the full list). My main objective was not to have the kids recite the philosophy and birthdates of each character. Instead, I wanted the kids to understand the fundamental philosophical shift that was happening during this time. Why do these people matter as a collective? I also wanted them to be able to at least recognize the names of the main players so that later on when they study this period again, they’ll have a foundation from which to begin.
After reading about some of the philosophers together, Eva began creating the beautiful puppets pictured above. Ian, not so much the visual artist, spent time watching some lectures from the Great Courses dvd series. Today, the kids joined forces to write and present their puppet plays.
After the plays, I verbally quizzed them about each philosopher. I began with Eva (the youngest), and had her tell me everything she knew about each person. I then asked Ian to expand on her responses. The kids were remarkably articulate and could distinguish between the general ideas. They also had a good grasp of the bigger picture – how these philosophers helped shape that period of history and the story yet to unfold. The one person they didn’t know as well was Immanuel Kant, so we looked him up again and discussed him further.
Here are the two puppet shows, both of which are inspired by Monty Python sketches. The first is a philosophical argument between Descartes and Locke; the second is a philosopher soccer game. There are some little philosopher jokes sprinkled in there, but mainly it’s just the kids having fun. These videos aren’t meant to be quality educational products, but hopefully they will serve as yet another example of how much more fun (and memorable) it is to perform and video and share than it is to take a fill-in-the-blank test. Enjoy!