By Jill Fox
Two Parkland elementary schools are focusing their talents on the art of debate.
In its inaugural year, the Park Trails Elementary School Debate Team proved themselves, winning medals in multiple categories.
In existence for three years, this was Heron Heights Elementary School’s first competition for their new team as well.
“I was really proud of them. Out of 18 teammates, ten earned medals,” said Lori Wyner, who teaches second grade and coaches the Heron Heights team made up exclusively of fifth-graders.
Preparing since October, the debate teams both meet after school to practice and strategize. In their first competition on December 12, at JP Taravella High School, the Park Trails team, comprised of 36 fourth and fifth-grade students, came away with five medals in two categories.
Park Trails Principal Arlene Manville said the students worked hard to prepare for this first competition.
“They had no idea what to expect and were so nervous about it, but they overcame that nervous energy and did their best. I am so proud of them,” she said.
In Original Oratory, students were required to give a three to five-minute speech presenting their side of a case. When preparing their argument, they were asked to cite evidence, give examples, and form a conclusion. Avery Servaitas, Lauren Williams, Alexandria Sundquist, and Angelina Russo earned medals in this category.
In the Congressional category, students were given two bills ahead of time and were required to select one, and give a one-minute affirmative or negative speech, followed by a much longer question and answer period. In this event, fifth-grader, Joni Van Eck earned a medal.
“It was our first year, and we were really impressed and proud of our students; the fact that we placed is pretty incredible,” said Ashley Uhrick, who coaches the fourth-grade team with Cassie Vazquez. Brooke Pappas and Meghan Eferstein coach the fifth-grade students on the debate team.
The Heron Heights team did things a little differently. For the initial tournament, every student was required to compete in the Congressional category. Amberlyn Aluord, Rachel Doralswamy, Natalia Dzielnicka, Samantha Gilbert, Luke Haynie, Amna Khwaja, Kate Logal, Nicolas Miller, Cristian Scradanu and Emma Weiner won medals.
Wyner, who coaches the team along with fourth-grade teacher Rosanne Johnson, prefers this method for the first competition.
“They have built confidence, practiced, and they have definitely learned the art of questioning. Now the students can try different categories,” she said.
Both teams plan to work with the helpful notes from the judges to try to improve for the next competition, which will take place in February 2020.
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.
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