Over 8 weeks and as part of a special project with the Grade 6 class at East Montpelier Elementary, Johannes Wheeldon partnered with Kathyrn Christy to work with students to learn about debate, dialogue and, respectful conversations. The group chose to debate school start times for middle and high school students, after considering a number of topics including lowering the voting age and net neutrality. In a spirited debate one group of debaters demonstrated the science behind later start times, the importance for student learning, and highlighted several studies from around the US. Another group highlighted the practical and logistical challenges for parents, teachers, and administrators. They focused on a 2017 survey of the community on this very issue and integrated the concerns expressed in their arguments.
Students from other classes, parents, teachers and other staff attended the debate and learned about how we developed group norms, our approach to constructive debate, and asked questions and offered reflections on what they saw.
Students were excited and proud of their accomplishments. They shared some thoughts on what they liked about the program.
Another exciting development was the connections made between our approach to debate, and existing curriculum around finding good evidence, constructing solid arguments, and presenting one's thoughts through speeches and in writing.
A special thanks to Ms. Christy and Mr. Willard for their support for this program!