John Muir Elementary

John Muir


John Muir Philosopher-in-Residence

The Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO – formerly the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children) has had a relationship with John Muir Elementary since 2009. With funding from a grant, the school began the first philosopher-in-residence program in the Seattle School district at John Muir in 2013.

This program involves the regular presence at the school of philosopher Karen S. Emmerman, PhD, who has taught at the University of Washington for twenty years, serves as PLATO’s education director and has been doing philosophy with young people since 2010. 

Working with students from kindergarten through fifth grade, philosophy sessions typically begin with some introduction to a philosophical question or questions, which could be a story, an activity, a puzzle, or just the posing of a question. The rest of the session is spent discussing questions of interest to the students. Along the way, we explore life’s essential questions, such as: Who am I? Is justice possible? What is a good life? What is beauty?

Philosophy offers students an opportunity to explore the connections between who they are, the subjects they study in school, and their everyday experiences. They learn to trust their own ideas and questions, which empowers them to take control of their own learning. As one of our John Muir Elementary School second-grade philosophy students put it, “It’s what you think that makes you who you are.” 

Karen is at John Muir on Mondays and Fridays and loves working with this wonderful community. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the program, please reach out!