Ripple Effect Episode 8: Brila

Looking for a unique summer experience for your kids?

Check out Brila’s magical lakeside summer camp located just an hour north of Montreal. Spots are still available for these bilingual overnight weekday camps!    

When it comes to protecting waterways, community-based water monitoring is often just one piece of an incredible ecosystem of actions. So, we’re recruiting people who can help us deepen our knowledge and bring us new ideas. They’re community champions, data experts, scientists, knowledge holders, and more. Join us as we learn from these experts and deepen our knowledge of the monitoring ecosystem!

This month, Water Rangers’ Ripple Effect highlights Brila, an educational charity committed to inspiring youth and communities through philosophical dialogue and creative projects. Their workshops, camps, trainings and consultations encourage participants young and old to wonder aloud about life’s big questions and express their ideas through their signature Philocreation® approach.

Introducing Brila

If you wanted young people to engage with water conservation, you wouldn’t necessarily think of doing philosophy with them. This may be because “philosophy has a PR problem”, as Natalie M. Fletcher, founding director of Brila, aptly puts it. It is often perceived as a purely intellectual discipline concerned only with abstract considerations. Yet, as Brila demonstrates, philosophy can provide a powerful springboard for environmental awareness and action.

We want to show that philosophy is in the grass, it’s in the trees, it’s in the lake, that we can go out and we can learn about what matters to us by engaging in philosophical concepts and then testing them in the real world.

Natalie M. Fletcher

For 15 years, Brila has sought to inspire youth and communities through philosophical dialogue and creative projects. By offering workshops, camps, trainings and consultations, it encourages participants young and old to wonder aloud about life’s big questions and express their ideas through its signature Philocreation® approach. This approach builds on the Philosophy for Children model initially developed by Matthew Lipman and Ann-Margaret Sharp, while supplementing philosophical inquiry with creative practices. Philocreation® thus aims to foster youth’s creative agency so that they see themselves as agents capable of change in the world.

Empowering youth to preserve the environment

Cultivating youth’s agency is especially important in relation to environmental issues. Young people know that their generation will face unprecedented environmental challenges, from climate change to biodiversity loss to water pollution. As a result, eco-anxiety is on the rise among youth. Brila hopes to counter this trend by equipping young people with a philosophical toolkit that enables them to think clearly and carefully through these pressing issues.   

A lot of [children] communicate to us that they are very anxious about the world that they’re going to be inheriting. And so to feel that they have knowledge that they can grasp, that they have ways of engaging with these big questions about the environment, about environmental ethics, means that they have this sense of power rather than powerlessness.

Natalie M. Fletcher

In 2022, a big change took place at Brila that opened up new opportunities to foster youth’s environmental awareness. Its headquarters moved to a new space in the wilderness, just one hour north of Montréal, in the heart of the Lanaudière region. This beautiful 96-acre space boasts a lake, a forest, a field, and eco-friendly lodgings. Young people who attend Brila’s summer camps can now learn about nature and develop a relationship with the land by hiking, kayaking, swimming, and stargazing. These outdoor experiences both ground and nurture young people’s philosophical reflections, further inspiring them to preserve the environment. 

In this natural space, Brila’s long-standing partnership with Water Rangers takes on a new dimension. Thanks to generous funding from Promoscience, Brila’s participants get to use Water Rangers’ testkits to test the water of the local lake. This hands-on, interactive activity sensitizes them to the key issues affecting water health while teaching them about their surrounding environment. They can then explore the implications of these issues and ways to address them through philosophical dialogues and creative projects. Environmental philosophy thus becomes even more impactful when combined with water testing.

Looking to the future

Exciting projects are underway at Brila. Besides finalizing the programming for its upcoming summer camps, the Brila team is developing a Philocreation® manual and an online platform to train adults who want to follow its approach. To continue to honour its commitment to water conservation, Brila is building rainwater showers on its land… and designing new educational activities with Water Rangers. The future indeed looks bright for philosophical approaches to water testing!     

Does your child love nature and have a big imagination? If so, check out Brila’s bilingual summer camps featuring philosophical dialogues, creative projects, outdoor activities… and water testing! Spots are still available and a 10% discount is offered until May 20, 2023.    

This is the April 2023 edition of The Ripple Effect! On Water Testing Weekends (the last Sunday of every month), we encourage you to get out and test your local waterways (alternative testing days are Friday, Saturday, and Monday). In celebration of this, “The Ripple Effect,” aka our water testing weekend expert series, aims to shine a light on individuals and organizations who are making a difference in the water world.