Hunting for knowledge on a philosopher's roam

11th April 2014 at 01:00

"We're going outside?" asked my sixth-form students. "I thought this was religious education, not physical education?"

I had expected a show of enthusiasm when I told them to grab their coats and follow me. Alas, teenagers are rarely enthusiastic, even when there is an opportunity to leave the classroom.

The plan for the lesson was to send them on an Aristotle-themed treasure hunt, to collect information about the philosopher's views on the body, soul and the afterlife - knowledge they needed for their exams. There are times when contemplating your existence (or lack of it after death) can get a bit heavy, especially at the end of six weeks on the topic, so I had decided on a fresh approach.

At each location on the hunt, the students found a piece of information about Aristotle's thinking that directed them to the next clue. The idea was that if students could connect Aristotle's views to areas in the school, they might remember his ideas better when revising.

For example, the notion of the soul having faculties of nutrition and intellect led students to the dining hall and school honours board, respectively. I found it most challenging to assign a location to desire, another quality of the soul, according to Aristotle. In the end, I settled for a personal, social and health education display on happiness.

Once they stopped grumbling about having to walk, my students loved the experience. They enjoyed doing something different, and the activity developed their problem-solving skills as well as their understanding.

Back in the classroom, I took the clues from the students and told them to try to remember everything they had discovered about Aristotle. Their memories were excellent. Even if they couldn't remember exactly what he had said, they could remember where they had been and connect this back to Aristotle's ideas.

Louise Cline teaches religious studies at Sheffield High School in the North of England. She was a recipient of a 2013 Shine Trust funding award. To enter this year's competition, go to bit.lyShineCompetition

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