Eighth graders are participating in Great Debates, and they are learning about the Constitution and American government in the process.
Students within their teams take on roles that match their strength and interests, according to social studies teacher Marnia Kiernan. They have three weeks to research topics and create arguments based on evidence before the debate takes place in front of teachers and peers.
“The project is differentiated to challenge students at all levels,” Kiernan said. “We purposefully choose issues that vary in complexity, and the Learning Commons has resources available at different reading levels.”
The project is designed to reinforce the skills of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and information literacy. “We choose issues that are currently being debated by politicians and policymakers,” said Kiernan. She reports that she spent “a lot of time” in October and November “reading SCOTUSblog to identify issues that are current, interesting and accessible to students.
The topics included the necessity of EPA regulations, capital punishment and gun control, as well as tax loopholes for online businesses, the president’s right to raise the number of Syrian refugees allowed in the USA, and police body cameras and privacy.