Tag Archives: ethics

Pickle – An Ethics Podcast for Kids

Thanks to Sonya Terborg (@terSonya) sharing a tweet from @FriedEnglish101 this weekend, I discovered Pickle this weekend.  Pickle is an ethics podcast for kids produced by WNYC.  The episodes look to be an average of about 20 minutes, and cover topics like, “Would an Elephant Visit a People Zoo?” and “The Friendship Formula.”

Pickle is hosted by two adults – Shumita Basu and Carl Smith – but they consult the “BrainsTrust” of kids during each episode.  I would guesstimate the target age group for this podcast would be 8 years old and up based on the topics and episode lengths.  It seems ideal for family discussions and enrichment classes, and individual topics could be integrated into curriculum as well.

Pickle currently has only 6 episodes (from December 2017), so I’m not sure what the future holds for this podcast.  According to the website, the original series (wouldn’t that be  Cucumber?) was an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production, Short and Curly, which has a few more episodes to offer on its website.

For more resources on talking about ethics with students, check out Not Just Child’s Play, Kids Philosophy Slam Contest, Teaching Children Philosophy,  and 8-Bit Philosophy (appropriate for secondary students).  Also, I recently posted about using some of the thinkLaw curriculum with my students, which is another great way to bring in ethics and critical thinking into your classroom.ethics-2110589_1920.jpg

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thinkLaw

thinkLaw is a curriculum that aims to teach critical thinking skills through the use of real legal cases.  The program’s founder, Colin Seale, won the “Shark Tank One Day Challenge” in 2016.  thinkLaw is aligned with US standards for grades 5-12, but some of the lessons can be used with younger students.  To purchase the full curriculum, you will need to contact the company.  However, you can download a free sample and purchase other segments on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

When looking at the free sample that is offered, “The Chair,” I realized that it fit in beautifully with an ethics discussion my students and I conducted last week about Tuck Everlasting.  In the story, one of the main characters (spoiler alert!) hits another character over the head with a shotgun.  At the time, we talked about whether it was ever okay to hit someone and, if so, under what circumstances is it acceptable?  “The Chair” walks students through a real legal case from the 1950’s, in which the aunt sued her 5-year-old nephew for pulling a chair out from underneath her.  Students learn legal terms such as: plaintiff, defendant, liable, and battery.  They find out the four criteria for the legal definition of battery, and weigh the evidence to determine if the nephew should be held liable.

When it comes to Depth and Complexity, this thinkLaw lesson incorporates many of the icons: Multiple Perspectives, Big Idea, Details, Ethics, and Trends, to name a few.  Students are polled a few times throughout the lesson to see how their thinking changes as they get more information.  After learning the outcome of the case, they are given a similar case to analyze using their new skills.

At first, I couldn’t quite gauge the interest of the students.  The conversation was hesitant, but everyone seemed to be absorbed in learning more. (There are 7 students in this class.)  It wasn’t until recess time that I learned the impact of the lesson…

Me:  “Okay everyone.  It’s recess time.  We are going to have indoor recess because of the weather.  You can play foosball, Osmo, or one of the other games.”

They moved toward foosball, and then one student said, “Let’s have court!”

Suddenly, furniture was being moved, parts were being assigned (judge, attorneys, plaintiff, defendant, witness), and a new scenario was proposed.  For the entire recess time, with no input from me, the students applied everything they had just learned to their imagined court case.

Voluntarily.

Instead of playing foosball.

Kind of funny when you think about it.  Holding court during a recess.  (very bad legal pun – sorry)

Experienced teachers know that we often don’t know what has made a real impression on our students.  If we do find out, it may be years later when a student visits and says, “Remember when…?”  This time, however, I received immediate proof that this lesson is likely to stick.

Want to find out who won the real legal case?  Download the free sample for yourself here!  Also, check out some of their other lessons (not free, and I haven’t reviewed them) that could be great for this time of year, including an MLK Jr. one, Valentine’s lessons, Superbowl, and Winter Olympics.  (I’ll be doing, “Always Watching” with my 5th graders next week because it ties in so well with The Giver.)

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image from Pixabay

Holiday Ethics Lessons for Primary Students

One of my favorite activities posted on Joelle Trayers’ Not Just Child’s Play blog is the lesson she does with her Kindergarten students on ethics using The Gingerbread Man story. “Ethics” is one of Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity icons, and an excellent way to take a topic to the Analyzing and the Evaluating levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I think that we spend a lot of time in school teaching students right from wrong, but we forget to tell them that not everyone agrees on what is right and wrong.  It can be shocking to a child to discover that her own judgment differs from someone else’s when it comes to morality, and it’s important for kids to learn to question the “obvious” and consider other perspectives.

Trayers also recently posted, “In Defense of Grinch,” which was a lesson where her students explained why the Grinch should not be put in jail for stealing the gifts.  With older classes, you could have students argue both sides.

Another good holiday ethics lesson could be done with the video, “The Snowman.”    Asking if the snowman should have saved the rabbit would be too simple, but “Should the snowman have kept the carrot at the end or given it to the rabbits?” could probably generate some good controversy in your classroom.

Speaking of snowmen, should Frosty have gotten a ticket for ignoring the traffic cop?

Of course fiction does not have to be your only resource.  Newsela (free to register) has lots of great news articles that I have used in the classroom for ethics discussions.  When we discuss the juxtaposition between freedom and safety in my class, I like to use, “Some Cities Say Sledding Too Dangerous.”

For a few more ethics resources, you can find a free animated video about ethics on BrainPop (most suitable for 2nd-5th grades) and Teaching Children Philosophy has a list of children’s books that you can use for teaching ethics, along with suggested discussion questions.

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image from Pixabay

Ethics, Tuck Everlasting, and the Trolley Car Dilemma

Arthur Miller

In my 4th grade GT class yesterday, we came to the part in Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, where Mae Tuck hits The Man in the Yellow Suit with the barrel of a shotgun.  For those of you who have not read the story, The Man in the Yellow Suit learns the location of a spring that gives anyone who drinks its water eternal life.  He wants to advertise and sell the water, and to forcibly use a young girl, Winnie, as living proof of its effectiveness.  The Tucks don’t want the secret given away – and don’t want Winnie to be taken by The Man in the Yellow Suit.  So, Mae conks him in the head with the gun.

This dramatic scene in the story always spawns the ethical question, “Is it ever right to use violence?”  When applied to Mae’s actions, the class of 15 students seemed to be somewhat split on whether she behaved appropriately or not.  Some, of course, argued that violence is okay when it is in defense of yourself or others.  Some felt that Mae had alternatives.

When pressed, though, all seemed to be absolutely certain that violence is right if you are protecting yourself or others – if it’s the only alternative.

I don’t like it when everyone is certain 😉

So, I posed a problem that I had heard on the radio.  Unfortunately, I got a few of the details wrong.  But, essentially, my scenario was the same as the one you can see in the video below, created by Professor Joyce Chaplin of Harvard (which I originally found on Larry Ferlazzo’s website).

The way I told it was: Suppose you are on a bridge, and you see that there is a train headed straight for a section of track that is broken.  If it gets there, the train will surely careen off the tracks and everyone in it will die.  But you can save them.  On the bridge is a button.  If you push it, the train will switch tracks.  The only problem is – there is someone on the second track.  He will not have time to get out of the way, and the train will not have time to stop.  Do you push the button?

Most of them said, “Yes!” But that’s not the end of the thought experiment.  Then I asked, “Well, what if there was no button, but there is a heavyset man next to you on the bridge.  If you push him on to the tracks below, he will stop the train, saving hundreds of people.  Would you do that?”

This was a little bit more disconcerting to them, and we discussed why.  Essentially, the math is the same, but…

Then, one of my students said, “What if the man you have to push was the President of the United States?”

Wow.  That really changed the conversation.  Are some lives more valuable than others?  Should we save a train full of hundreds of strangers or the President?

And then someone said, “What if you have family members on the train?”

There were more “what if” questions, and I loved them all.  Now, no one was certain.

Mark Twain once said, “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”  I would borrow from Arthur Miller, and tweak Twain’s quote a bit by saying, “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to humble uncertainty.”

Students usually have no problem identifying black and white.  It’s admitting that there’s a gray that can be the greatest challenge.

(By the way, this is not a discussion, nor a video, that I would share with younger students.  There needs to be  a certain level maturity, and a classroom environment that allows for deep discussion, for this to be meaningful.)

Misunderstood Monsters

A few weeks ago, I posted about a charming video called “Monsterbox“.  I offered some ideas for using it in the classroom, but I was not very specific.  One of my colleagues sent me an assignment that she created for the video based on Kaplan’s icons for Depth and Complexity, and that got my brain churning.  (Thanks, Michelle!)

I decided to use Monsterbox with my gifted 2nd graders.  First, we watched and discussed the video in general terms.  They immediately all wanted to make their own monsters.  Since I am a horrible art teacher, I enlisted the help of a paid iPad app – iLuvDrawingMonsters (.99) – installed on my personal iPad.  I connected that to my projector via VGA cable, and each student got to choose a monster to draw in the app while the others drew the same monster freehand.  Once they got the basic Principle of Monster Drawing, they embellished and modified their pictures however they wanted.  Some of them then felt comfortable to invent their own new monsters.

After decorating their monsters, the students did a gallery walk, so they could give each other feedback, and then make a final selection of a favorite monster to display.

Our next class was spent on decorating boxes for their monsters.  We used duct tape, markers, scrapbook paper, and whatever else we could find.  The kids loved it!

Now that their creative appetites were sated for a little bit, I encouraged the kids to do some deep thinking using the Ethics and Multiple Perspectives icons from Sandra Kaplan.  The video does a good job of showing some of the “prejudices against monsters”, and we discussed this, as well as how it would feel to be a monster.  I’ve attached two worksheets for this activity to this post.  (You can go here to generate your own “monster font”.)

Finally, the students took photos of their monsters with the iPads, and used the Puppet Pals app (Director’s Pass, $2.99, allows you to use your own photos as actors) to create skits about what monsters do for fun.

As an added bonus, I uploaded their videos to Aurasma Studio so people can scan the monsters on the bulletin board with smartphones equipped with that app and see the videos.

From start to finish, this unit took about 5 hours.  I hope that some of you can use these ideas, and I would love to hear yours!

The Ethics of Monsters

If I Were a Monster

 

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