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Story-based Drama Activities

Using Philosophical Enquiry for Learning

Teachers notes

Philosophical enquiry is all about encouraging children and young people to effectively define and explore the questions that matter to them and that come from critically thinking about a particular issue, event, person, place or object. The enquiry process creates a safe space for children to share original ideas and their own experiences, listen to one another and develop their own insights and opinions.

This section offers a basic approach to philosophical enquiry. You can find out more information and detail about the process if you search online for ‘Philosophy for Children’.

Use the Teacher Support Pack and downloadable guide to support your pupils to use Philosophical Enquiry to explore themes embedded in the four film and audio stories, the images, sounds and other resources on this learning resource. 


The Philosophical Enquiry Process

  • Enhances critical thinking, cooperation and collaboration, classroom discussion and social and emotional wellbeing
  • Encourage pupils to consider some of their own ‘big questions’ about our world
  • Works well with younger and older children of all abilities
  • Supports independent learning and ownership of self-learning
  • Has been praised by Ofsted as an effective tool for deep learning
  • Is good fun if it’s done well!

Stages in the process

These are covered in more detail in the download ‘Egyptian Shabti Philosophical Enquiry Guide’.

  • Introduction and warm up activity
  • Warm up
  • Stimulus
  • Thinking Time
  • Gathering the key themes
  • Question Creation
  • Sharing Questions
  • Voting
  • Dialogue
  • More Thinking Time
  • Final Thoughts


The core themes you might explore using the films and audio pieces and images on this resource include:

  • Fiction and Truth
  • Colonialism and Power
  • Preservation and conservation
  • Theft
  • Ownership and repatriation
  • Value
  • Beauty and perfection
  • Faith/Religion/Sanctity
  • Gender
  • Relationships
  • Culture
  • Learning, knowledge and understanding
  • Belonging
  • Creativity
  • Ego
  • Exploration and discovery
  • Science
  • Provenance

Philosophical Enquiry Question Bank

Part of the purpose of the approach is to encourage children to generate their own enquiry questions and give them enough time to do so. If you get stuck here are a few to get started.

  • Is an object still valuable if its damaged?
  • What is art?
  • The Shabti is now considered a treasure. Should treasures be in places where everyone can see and touch them?
  • What about the people who made it? Were they poor? Were they recognised then? Were they important? What is the difference in the value of people’s activities in the past and today?
  • Ipi worked in workshop making hundreds of Shabti every day. This type of production is now called a supply chain. Should children work?
  • Could a woman have made the shabti? Why? Should women be treated differently to men?
  • What might be the equivalent to a shabti now? Why do people believe in an ‘afterlife’?
  • Watch the video, Jess’s story. What should Jess do? What should she say to Mrs Bletherswick?
  • Listen to Ipi’s story. Ipi says that ‘beauty is never about perfection – it’s the imperfections that make something beautiful.’ Do you agree?
  • What make you proud? Is being proud good? Should you be proud of where you live?
  • Should museum objects be sent back to their country of origin?
  • Watch the video Amelia’s story. Imagine if the Reverend didn’t allow Amelia to present the shabti? Amelia says that Aquila should be more interested in ‘scholarship over showmanship’ – what does she mean and why is that important? Why would something that is common be of interest to anyone?
  • Should we preserve ancient objects and keep them locked away or share them with everyone?
  • Should people be allowed to sell ancient artefacts?
  • Which objects are worth keeping in museums?
  • Should Egyptian objects be exhibited in Leeds Museums?
  • Should people be allowed to have private collections like Aquila?
  • What does stolen mean? Are all archaeological finds in museums stolen?
  • How do we decide who owns anything that’s been buried for thousands of years? Is it the archaeologist who finds it – or the person who’s paying the archaeologist to dig? Is it the person who owns the land, or the whole country where the dig takes place? Or simply the person who can offer the most money for it?
  • Does being different matter?