Plato's Allegory of the Cave
I've used this lesson for kids 7 and up. It's a great way to introduce kids to Plato and the nature of reality. I've found that The Allegory of the Cave can be quite difficult to understand (even for college students), without some sort of modern reference - and it's very important to discuss the ideas into a more modern perspective with kids.
You will need:
1. The book: Plato's Academy and the Eternal Key by Ali Gray
2. The YouTube cartoon of Plato's Allegory of the Cave
3. Some basic craft supplies - construction paper, scissors, tape, popsicle sticks, a bright flashlight
4. A dark room/closet
5. The movie: The Matrix
I gave the kids some background information on this guy, Plato. I put it in perspective by including some info on Socrates (his teacher), and Aristotle (his student). We also looked up Greece on a map and discussed what was happening in the world during the time of Plato's life (427-347 BC). This can also give you an opportunity to discuss the differnce between the time classifications of BC (before Christ)/AD (Anno Domini) and BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era).
We took about a week to read Plato's Academy and the Eternal Key by Ali Gray. The book is about a boy who goes back in time to ancient Greece after his grandfather's death. It gives a great explanation of several of Plato's ideas - specifically The Cave.
We watched the animated version of Plato's Allegory of the Cave and discussed the ideas Plato was trying to illustrate - like true reality vs. our perception of reality. You can use this to discuss a kid's perception of things vs. an adult's, etc.
We decided to enact the ideas discussed in The Cave by making paper chains and paper figures to cast shadows on the wall. We had so much fun cutting the figures out of construction paper and then gluing them to popsicle sticks. As we cast our shadows (by using a flashlight to cast the shadows of our figures), we let the kids who were "chained" guess what the figures were. After we were in the dark room for a few minutes, we turned on the light and discussed how our eyes adjust to different light waves, and how our sight perception can change in different lighting as well.
For an added bonus, the kids watched The Matrix and later we discussed how the movie and Plato's story were alike and different.
You may also want to try another (more detailed) fun explanation of The Cave and the Nature of Reality.
When I taught Plato's Allegory of the Cave to my English Comp II students, I found that I had to use the animated YouTube film to supplement the original reading assignment - just to help them understand the basic philosophical concepts. This assignment helped the younger kids learn these concepts just as easily as the college students did.
I'd love to hear how this assignment worked out for you!
I shared this lesson with the author of Plato's Academy and the Eternal Key and she was kind enough to send me this response:
Hi Danan, I am thrilled the kids enjoyed Plato's Academy. Your homeschool lesson plan about Plato looks fantastic. I think it is terrific how you have incorporated the novel, with the Youtube cartoon about Plato's Cave and the Matrix! That will really get the kids thinking!
A very thoughtful lesson plan for homeschoolers - Congratulations!