I have 16 8th grade students taking part in the Eracism project which is an international debate.
A link to this project is here
The debate topic is
"Global management of natural resources will cause conflict between cultures"
Talk about intense! My students had to take time to focus on the content, deciphering what this really means, creating research, outlines, arguments, etc. Everything that goes into a debate. These are some of the top students in our building. This project has not only opened their eyes, but my eyes as well.
Aside from gathering researching(basic skills that they are sick of), these students have to take their thinking to a whole new level that I really feel they have not reached before or not too often.
After a team dropped out, both of my teams are debating against THINK Global school located in Argentina. What I found to be most fascinating about this process is during the first day when I exposed the students to this project they all had a common reaction:
- We have to go against other schools from other countries? Awesome! Oh wait, they are going to tear us up.
- We are the only public school? That is not fair!
- How are we going to beat these teams?
I found this so striking. When time presents itself I am going to have a class discussion about why they felt this way without even knowing who these other schools are and what they do.
My 16 students are spread across three class periods. They don't get to meet together as a collective team due to scheduling so they have to communicate and work together through Google Drive and gmail. It has been interesting. What we have discovered is that nothing works better than face to face communication. In a tech saturated environment, these kids are realizing the power of human interaction.
We are in the midst of our first round debates. We have had two of our speakers speak so far. One team is done presenting and just waiting for the final speaker of the other team.
What do we think?
Well, I think my kids felt inferior. The speaking skills of the other teams were amazing. We have done an outstanding job preparing. I am quite impressed with the scripts and research we have conducted. One student contacted an author, has been asking questions, obtained a copy of the book, and just started to explore beyond Google.
My kids felt the pressure of thinking on your feet. They only get 5 minutes to plan a rebuttal after listening to the other team. I cannot even begin to describe how intense my office felt while they were talking, discussing, planning the strategies, and then speaking rebuttals. I am not going to lie. I was sweating I was nervous. And I am the teacher and really play no part in the process. I really wish I took pictures. Actually, I am going to take pictures and video next round so I can show how we operated. It is quite amazing to watch them break down the information, make a plan, write some ad lib scripts and begin recording in a matter of minutes. I am so proud of these kids.
There is such a sigh of relief when the recording ends. Then we talk and celebrate for getting it done.
As an educator I feel like I am being challenged. This platform challenges me to think of more ways to push my students in this way without it being detrimental to their learning. I think that they are enjoying this project. They know there is a real audience listening to them. At this stage they could care less about grades, but instead they care about sounding intelligent, making sound arguments, and winning!
Now that they have done a few speeches(for a lack of a better term), I feel like we have a grasp on things. We know what to expect. We know how to better prepare. Regardless of how we do first round, we have second round.
This is their project. I don't even have access to their scripts. I fill their minds with ideas, strategies, how to work as a team, etc. I leave it up to them to organize content, find content, write the words, etc. Should I proofread their scripts? I don't know. Some might say I should. I have decided to be an advocate of the "team concepts" and "thinking skills". I feel that if I read the script, offer ideas, give links, etc. then the arguments become mine. I don't want that. I want them to find their voice. I want them to discover their ideas. I want them to feel like this is truly 100% theirs.
I am fortunate enough to be working with another amazing teacher that runs the Argentina schools. This teacher communicates back and forth daily. It has made life great. This teacher helped when another team had to drop. I feel blessed to be competing against THINK Global. We have learned a great deal from the effective speaking and articulation of their speakers. They are examples of where we are trying to be.
This is phase one. I will keep things updated and will post pictures and video next time we go through the process. It is too much fun to not document. Education is good when at the end of the day the teacher has learned as much as the students.