Stretching ‘Thriving Minds’ conference sparks enjoyable debate and discussion

Stretching ‘Thriving Minds’ conference sparks enjoyable debate and discussion

14 March 2023

Students from Woldingham, Downsend, Oakwood, Reigate Grammar, Royal Russell and Royal Alexandra and Albert schools enjoyed a day of stretch and challenge at the Thriving Minds conference hosted by Woldingham on Monday 13 March.

Year 9 students in our Kritikos programme for academic scholars and students new to Kritikos in Years 8 and 10 took part, exploring a wide range of fascinating topics, as described below.

 Laura K, Sophia D C and Alice S, Year 9

The Thriving Minds conference meant we took a day off from set timetables to discover new topics and see where subjects overlap. It started with a lecture on ‘Justice, Truth and Beauty’, which explored the purpose of punishment and the definition of justice. We attempted to understand the different views posed by great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle; whether justice is a universal concept that has existed prior to human existence, or a concept we need to learn and develop as society evolves. 

After a short break, we were put into 12 groups comprising students from different schools and year groups. We discussed whether diet is a free choice or not, challenging and encouraging each other with different stimulus without the help of a member of staff. Our topics ranged from factory farming to speciesism, whether human are animals, or whether animals have the same conscious mind as us, and the ethics behind being an omnivore, how eating meat is as bad as hate crimes such as racism and sexism. This activity allowed us to get to know each other better. We then came back together and shared our understanding and arguments with the whole group. 

After lunch we had a talk on quantum physics and how it relates to Newton’s third law of motion. It’s safe to say that our minds were blown when we heard that a cat can be dead but also not dead at the same time! We all learned so much and really stretched our brains. One student even said that she loved it because it was allowing her to ‘step out of her comfort zone’.

The final session was a debate on ‘Is free will an illusion?’ Teacher, author and educator Julie Arliss argued that it is an illusion, and Woldingham’s Mr Kellaway argued that it is not. Students contributed lots of interesting and contrasting ideas and asked questions such as ‘Is our life planned out for us?’ and ‘Is the law really giving us freewill?’ Everyone was keen to discuss and debate with each other. We all had a very enjoyable time and concluded that freewill is not an illusion and does exist.

We finished the session at around 14:30 and went back to our final lessons of the day. It was a brilliant stretch for our minds and logic and also a great opportunity to meet students from different schools.

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