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Meadows students dominate in philosophy slam

Local student earns "The Most Philosophical Fourth Grader in America" title

Posted: June 24, 2008 12:50 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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The youngsters at Meadows Elementary School in Valencia are on top of their game when it comes to understanding global warming.

Ten-year-old Hunter Shapiro-Throckmorton was given the title of "The Most Philosophical Fourth Grader in America" and 10-year-old Camryn Patterson was named "The Most Artistic Student in America" after submitting their award-winning entries to the 2008 Kids Philosophy Slam.

Joining in the awards were Brandon Fagan, who earned fifth place in the fourth-grade category and Alexis Block, who earned third place in the sixth-grade category.

The theme of this year's Kids Philosophy Slam, a nationwide contest for students K-12, was global warming.

The GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students of Meadows entered the competition as part of a philosophy symposium.

For his submission, Shapiro-Throckmorton decided to answer the slam's question of "Is global warming the greatest challenge facing humankind?" with a poem.
"I was thinking about how if affected everything," he said about his inspiration to write the poem.

Before writing his submission, the fourth grader had watched "An Inconvenient Truth" at home and with his classmates, which motivated him to write about global warming's effects.

"I wasn't even thinking about winning," he said.

Along with the other GATE students, Shapiro-Throckmorton entered his poem in the fall, as part of the GATE philosophy symposium.

Last month, Shapiro-Throckmorton received the good news from his principal, who presented him with a medal.

The recognition didn't stop as Shapiro-Throckmorton also received a special award from Mayor Bob Kellar.

But Shapiro-Throckmorton's skills are not limited to just writing award-winning poems.

His favorite subject in school is math because it's a "good challenge."

He has also been involved in the sport of fencing for five years and practices multiple times a week.

While college is a decade or so away, Shapiro-Throckmorton wants to one day attend Harvard University, be on the school's fencing team and study to become a lawyer.

"I am good at debating and problem solving," he said.

But Shapiro-Throckmorton isn't the only star at Meadows Elementary.

Camryn Patterson was named "The Most Artistic Student in America" for her drawing of two penguins.

As for her inspiration for the Kids Philosophy Slam drawing, she responded, "I really love penguins and it's pretty sad that they might be all dying because of global warming."

Along with her watercolor drawing, Patterson wrote an essay about what she sees as the causes of global warming and how it's affecting animals.

Patterson found out about her new title just a couple weeks ago when her teacher announced the accomplishment during the last days of class.

"I was really happy," she said.

For her achievement, Patterson received a certificate and a gift certificate.

The opportunities to enter the Kids Philosophy Slam were organized by Beth Judge, the school's GATE teacher.

Judge said every year, the GATE students, ranging from fourth to sixth grade, will take part in a day-long symposium.

"It's a chance for all of the fourth-grade GATE students to be together," giving them a way to bounce ideas off each other, Judge said.

During the GATE symposium, Judge said the students were given an overview of philosophy.

Topics included ancient philosophers like Plato and today's modern discussions about philosophy and global warming.

"We made sure we were all on the same page about global warming," she said about the lesson.

The 75 GATE students, who range in age from 9 to 11 years old, also watched "An Inconvenient Truth" and read different books on the topic.

Judge said she tried to remain balanced by having the students read works by people who do not support the theory of global warming.

As a whole, Judge believes the GATE program, which requires students to take entrance exams before being admitted to the program, exposes the students to concepts they would normally not study at their grade level.

"It allows them to think more critically," she said. "They see two sides of an issue and can make up their own mind."

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