Soaring ideas

20th July 2007 at 01:00
What do philosophy and religion have in common? The ability to open new windows on the world. Gerald Haigh reports

The Little Book of Thunks: 260 Questions to make your brain go ouch!

By Ian Gilbert

Crown House Publishing pound;6.99


"A Thunk," says the author, "is a beguilingly simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start looking at the world in a whole new light."

For example: "If I wrote a piece of music down but never played it, is it music?" Or, "If you fill a room full of bricks, is it still a room?" Or, "Can a non-racist person tell a racist joke?"

There are 260 such questions here, plus an extensive introduction with ideas for teachers, primarily about thinking skills, but also pointing to ways of introducing lessons in a range of subjects across the curriculum. Importantly and this will ring bells for many teachers the author reminds us how well quiet, back-of-the-room children ("lost boys and girls" they're called here) often come to life in sessions like this.

Although the book has its roots in the American programme Philosophy for Children (P4C), it doesn't labour the connection, and stands on its own merits.

The questions include some that have apparently simple, factual answers. That's no bad thing. I remember the experiment we once did with a balanced metre rule in order to prove that, yes, an inflated balloon really is heavier than an deflated one. Then we discussed the different gases with which it might be inflated.

Worship: Its importance in belief and practice

DVD (90 minutes) The Culham Institute


Order from: James Robson, The Culham Institute, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6PY uk or call 01865 284887


Just about every pupil, primary and secondary, will visit a place of worship more than once a year as part of RE. But a real sense of what goes on in these temples, churches or synagogues is often missing.

Descriptions are one thing. Being present at an intensely focused and often emotional act of worship is something else. School visits don't often involve that, because of time and opportunity and because it can be difficult or inappropriate to involve children as visitors in what is a deeply felt experience for the faith community.

This DVD fills a need. Intended for teachers and pupils, it takes us to eight places of worship: Buddhist, Anglican, Baptist, orthodox Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh.

In each place a faith leader shows the building and its artefacts, and explains the central features of worship, intercut with film of actual acts of worship. There's time in the 90 minutes to take in, and hear first-hand, something of what each act of worship means to the people taking part, and there are genuinely moving moments of prayer.

What's striking is not the differences on show, but the similarities, which is why it's so valuable to have these eight films on one DV

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