Students Participate in Third Annual SCSD Debate Competition
Published on 2/22/19
District News Ed Smith Expeditionary Learning School Grant Middle School HW Smith K-8 School PSLA @ Fowler Syracuse STEM @ Blodgett
Middle and high school students from Ed Smith, ELMS, Grant, HW Smith, PSLA at Fowler and Westside Academy at Blodgett recently gathered at Grant Middle School for the third annual SCSD Debate Competition.
The theme of this year’s competition: Next Generation Science Standards. Debate topics ranged from human cloning to vegetarianism to space exploration, government biofuel subsidies and more.
Students were given a topic in advance and prepared to defend both sides of the topic, as they did not find out which side they would debate in support of until the day before the competition!
On the ELMS debate team, which placed first in the debate, students said preparing to argue for either side of an issue helped them with their actual performance.
“Researching both sides of an issue helped us to be prepared and understand the different sides to the different issues,” eighth grader Arshia Khadivizana said. “That helped us make our argument better, because we understood the opposing side. I learned that by researching both sides of something, I can be more prepared because it can help me better enforce what I believe.”
As students faced off at the debate, each team had one minute to present their opening statements; then two minutes for their rebuttal. Teams then questioned each other for two minutes, and then each team had time for a one-minute closing statement.
“The rebuttal is the hardest part, because you don’t know what the other team is going to say,” ELMS student Arian Khadivizana added. “We took notes about how to use what they said against them. I’m not a great public speaker, but the debate team has helped!”
“I like to learn, and I knew that joining the Debate Team would help me learn to organize my thoughts and be clear with what I’m trying to say,” ELMS eighth grader Mina Cox said. “I like to argue! But for the debate, we learned the importance of research. We had to find only the best facts to use, so our ideas didn’t come across as half-baked.”
The top three scoring teams – ELMS, HW Smith and Ed Smith – all received medals, and the gold-winning school, ELMS, received a trophy to keep on display, which they will need to defend at next year’s competition.
HW Smith students were told to defend the position that beef products should be eliminated in schools because of their contributions to carbon emissions – a topic that several team members disagreed with. But this experience of finding the research to help students defend a position that they don’t necessarily personally agree with is one of the reasons Grant Technology Teacher Scott Daley decided to begin the Debate Competition three years ago.
“Through debate, I hope to create opportunities for students to have a space to apply their academic learnings outside the walls of the classroom,” Mr. Daley said. “Competitive debate demands a lot of its participants. It requires them to collaborate with their team; to think deeply about issues; to research, acquire, and analyze information; to formulate persuasive arguments and then deliver them with confidence and poise; to listen to counter arguments; to answer questions with supporting evidence; and to adjust one’s rebuttal and closing arguments in the moment. These are not only skills aligned to academic success, but skills sought after by employers as well. Debate is challenging, yet highly rewarding.”
For the HW Smith team, students said the opportunity to take part in an educated debate helped change their outlook when dealing with people with different perspectives.
“I liked having the opportunity to discuss things with people and gain more knowledge,” HW Smith eighth grader Alaa Laila said. “I think the competition has made me more open-minded, and more reasonable. It helped me learn to focus more on what other people are saying. You hear a lot of differing opinions, but you have to be really informed so you can stick with your opinion.”
Congratulations to all who took part in this year’s competition! Special thanks to event sponsor Wegmans, as well as judges Rhonda Zajac (Director of English Language Arts) and Nate Franz (Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning); Guest Speaker Dana Corcoran (Supervisor of Science and Technology); and Master of Ceremonies Jean Van Doren (Grant Library Media Specialist) for making the event a success.
To view photos from the third annual Debate Competition, please click here to visit our Flickr page.