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“The students on the Debate Team are not just learning skills on how to properly debate against their opponents, but they’re learning social skills and skills and techniques that they are able to apply to their schoolwork and their everyday lives.”
The Nysmith Debate Club was started around 11 years ago by Mrs. Maria-Theresa Dragg but has only been a competitive team for the last five. The team is made up of students from 6th through 8th grade who compete in novice, junior varsity, and varsity in the DC UDL. The students compete in middle school tournaments but recently decided that they wanted more of a challenge and went up against high schoolers! In January, the Nysmith Debate Team swept through the competition and came in first place in the Broad Run High School Invitational Tournament affirming/negating the resolution that Spain should grant Catalonia its independence. The students competed against 45 schools across the state of Virginia, with 12 different speech categories and were awarded the Sweeps Cup because they won two of the three awards at the competition.
The Team meets a couple of days during the school week but they also spend time researching their topics outside of school. “We practice a couple of times a week on campus but we put in a lot of hours after school and on weekends. We often FaceTime one another to brush up on our information and help each other out. Although it is a time commitment, it’s an experience that I truly love and enjoy because it has helped me out so much in debate and things outside of debate as well,” said a student. The students on the Debate Team are not just learning skills on how to properly debate against their opponents, but they’re learning social skills and skills and techniques that they are able to apply to their schoolwork and their everyday lives. “Being a part of the Debate Team has taught me so much in terms of public speaking, preparation, and being confident. I’ve learned the importance of looking directly into someone’s’ eyes when speaking to them and how to properly convey what I’m trying to say because the way you respond tells people a lot about your personality, which in turn has helped me with high school interviews and will help me with college interviews in the future,” Mckenzie (8th grade).
Students on The Debate Team are also learning about issues that go on not only within U.S. borders but around the world as well. One student said “I can honestly say that when it comes to Social Studies I have a lot more of an in depth understanding about it. I can make parallels from one topic to another and I’m so much more aware of things that happen outside of this country. This all ties into language arts too, my essay writing has definitely improved just by writing those debate speeches.” The art of debate teaches students composure, understanding, and respect for others. “My parents always tell me to not use my debate skills against them and it never works with them, but when it comes to the art of speech and debate it’s not about yelling at the other team and telling them why they’re wrong and you’re right but it’s about persuading the judges why your system works better than theirs. I use these skills every day in pretty much any situation, if my friends and I disagree on something I’m able to explain to them why I think my reasoning works better than theirs without knocking them down,”Mckenzie (8th grade).
The students also rave about how many friends they’ve made outside of Nysmith through debate competitions, and how they’ve all built strong bonds with other members on their team. The members of the Debate Team also want to encourage students that are interested in joining next year, to absolutely do it without hesitation because there are so many ways to learn and grow from the experience.