8th Grade Students Debate Election Issues

The day after Halloween, our two schools (Capitol Hill Day School and Alexandria Country Day School) came together for a series of debates.  Our 8th grade classes had been collaborating in preparation for this event for about a month prior to the debates. This was a fantastic experience for several reasons:

1)  Our students were able to collaborate on a real-world project.  Although they never met face-to-face prior to the elections, our students were able to collaborate using various forms of technology.  The collaboration was primarily via our wikispaces Debate page.  Using the "Projects" tool on wikispaces, I was able to set up a private space where each debate team could upload ideas, documents, arguments, supporting facts and research.  They were able to upload their opening and closing statements there as well as edit them to get their work just right.

2)  The History teachers for both schools were able to professionally collaborate.  Over a month prior to the debates, I met with the History teacher at ACDS to come up with a way to bring our classes together on a real world project.  Not only did we come up with this great opportunity to have our students debate together on 8 important election issues (like taxes, immigration, education, voter ID laws, among other things), it was a great opportunity for us as professionals to collaborate.  We learned from each other just as much as the students learned from each other.

3)  Our students were able to apply their learning to a relevant, real-world experience.  This collaboration was a fantastic opportunity for both classes to get together to put their research skills, history lessons and election studies to use in a real-world activity.  Our two schools are fortunate in that we both understand the need to cultivate critical thinking and problem solving skills in our students; we also understand that testing is NOT the way to do that.  Our students proved that they were capable of doing the initial hard work to prepare, and then exceeded our expectations by maintaining their poise and confidence during the tough debates.

4)  Our students were excited about learning!  By the time lunch time came around, our students were already discussing the next project to work on, just so that they could get together again to collaborate on another fun, interesting and exciting project.  This was not just another test or presentation that they had to get through. Our students were excited for the collaboration and the comraderie, but more importantly, they were excited and proud to show off all of their hard work and preparation. 

And, they nailed the debate topics.  Our students performed well on all issues. The entire day was a demonstration of what learning is supposed to be about! Stay tuned for our next collaboration, coming soon (at the students' request, too!)

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