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Critical thinking for kids

This summer, a Concordia PhD candidate is teaching philosophy — with a twist
March 30, 2016
By J. Latimer

Building robots, recycling fashion, writing a zine — these are the kinds of creative challenges posed at Brila's summer camps. And let’s not forget gardening and dance.

“Our mission is to encourage thinking through creative projects,” says Natalie Fletcher, the founding director of Brila Youth Projects, a registered educational charity that has run camps on Concordia’s Loyola Campus since the summer of 2013.

“Unlike an arts and crafts camp or a specialty camp, where there's one focus, our aim is to develop multidimensional thinking — thinking that's critical, creative, and collaborative.”

Fletcher, a fourth-year PhD student in Humanities with Concordia’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, also guides the camp’s programming to foster empathy, self-efficacy and social responsibility among young people through philosophic discussion.

If that sounds heavy, it doesn’t play out that way. Each day is a mix of active challenges, and for each camp session, Fletcher invites topic-appropriate guests — creative professionals such as cartoonists, filmmakers, illustrators and photographers; engineers and scientists.

“My daughter has a blast at Brila. At the end of the day, she chats nonstop about all she had done, made, imagined, thought, discovered and felt. I could witness, from one day to the next, the sharpening of her critical thinking skills and the flourishing of her creativity,” says Stephanie Bolster, professor in the Department of English. “The facilitators are stunningly well-organized — the kind of organization that permits real spontaneity to flourish without chaos — and they genuinely love what they do.”

Autistic kids are welcome

This year, kids on the autism spectrum are encouraged to join the fun.

“We have a neurodiversity specialist and we follow an integration model, so the kids aren’t segregated in any way,” says Fletcher, an endorsed practitioner of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children and its UNESCO-recognized Philosophy for Children (P4C) model. “We adapt activities so everyone gets a genuine camp experience.”

Also new this year is direct input from a 25-member board of past camp participants, ages six to sixteen. Bolster’s daughter is a member.

“They met with us throughout the school year to help us shape the direction of our programming, including the summer camps,” says Fletcher, winner of a 2015 Volunteer Recognition Award from Student Services’ LIVE Centre. “We want to defy the assumption that everything should be age specific. We have six-year-olds working with teenagers. We really want Brila to be ‘by youth and for youth’.”

Camp: July 5 start date

Starting this summer, campers as young as five years old are welcome. The 2016 summer camp schedule is posted on the Brila website, with dates and rates. Sign your child up by April 1 and you'll receive a 15 per cent discount.

The early-bird rate is $187 per child, per week. Members of the Concordia community get a 10 per cent discount.

Thirty per cent of the camp spots are reserved for bursary students.

  • Teen leadership training: July 5-8, 2016
  • Camp session 1: July 11-15, 2016
  • Camp session 2: July 18-22, 2016
  • Camp session 3: July 25-29, 2016


Find out more about Concordia's Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture.


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