The use of debate in Alberta Schools is growing due to the academic and social benefits it brings each participant. Structured debate encourages critical thinking, develops public speaking skills, fosters teamwork, promotes the study of current affairs topics, and is fun for students.
Benefits Of Structured Debating
Debate has become a part of Donalda School's Language Arts programs for five primary reasons:
- The most obvious benefit is the practice students get in public speaking. The role of the speaker in a debate is an interactive one, and this is especially valuable. It will not suffice for debaters to simply memorize and present speeches. They must react to their opponents' arguments and questions, while incorporating this information into their own presentations.
- Debate is also an excellent way to develop critical thinking skills. For example, researching a debate topic involves examining the pros and cons of the issue, determining what the problems are, and considering alternative solutions.
- The research and presentation of a debate is clearly a team effort and aids in the development of skills needed to work as a team member. Donalda School has long had a reputation as having excellent team-sports programs. Debating, subsequently, provides participants with the same team experience, but in an academic arena. Hence, those who choose not to gain this team experience from the Donalda School sporting program, need not miss out on its benefits.
- Debate also promotes the research and study of current affairs topics and issues of national interest and concern, and thereby, supplements the Social Studies curriculum. Consequently, debate accents and develops skills required to confront and provide solutions to life's challenges/dilemmas.
- Debate is fun. If you're not aware of this fact, just ask the students, past and present, who take part in structured debating. Many Donalda School Alumni, for example, have and do return to act as judges in yearly Debate Tournaments.
History Of Debating at Donalda School
Donalda School began its Debating Program in 1992. That year, we competed well in two inter-school tournaments. The following year, a Donalda team - Angela Christians and Crystal Barber - made it through Regionals to compete at the Provincial Debate Finals held in Calgary. Since that time, we have continued our debating program, and had success at all levels. Unfortunately, Clearview inter-school competition ended for a time with the closure of Gadsby School in 2003. Happily, two other schools - Brownfield and Byemoor - have accepted Donalda School's debate challenge for 2010.
Debating - Types and Topics
There are two types of debate competitions offered at the junior high level - Values Debates and Policy Debates. Donalda School debates in Policy Debates, and this year's resolution is:
- "Be It Resolved That Canada's Military Should Remain in Afghanistan Beyond 2011."
When students are fully prepared, an in-school debate tournament is organized. It's fun and interesting. All students in junior high participate.
The next step in the competition ladder is inter-school debates. On Wednesday, 03 March 2010, Byemoor School and Brownfield School will each send six teams of debaters - two from each junior high grade - to compete with the same number of our junior high teams. It will be a school wide extravaganza, and all are welcome to attend.
Those students not competing will act as judges, time keepers and chairpersons. Prizes are given to all. The average in-school tournament takes about four hours to complete. We invite parents and community members to do the judging - it's great for public relations.
Regional competition comes next. The only requirement to qualify for Regionals is for each debate team to have competed in two tournaments. This year's Regional Playoffs will take place in Calgary and Edmonton (dates TBA).
If a team does well at Regionals, it qualifies to go to Provincials. This is a great achievement for the students and community. Donalda School has sent teams to compete at the Regional level on four separate occasions, and has had three teams qualify to compete at the Provincial level.
Judges From The Community
Adult volunteers are recruited to judge the inter-school debates at Donalda School. Judging is not a difficult task, nor does it require previous experience in debating or public speaking. Each judge evaluates a debate based on an easy-to-follow judging sheet, and submits results to a chairperson. There are three judges for each debate, so volunteers have company.
Parent Council President Tasha Jaffray - a Provincial Debate Finalist - will organize the recruiting of judges for this year's debate (883-2636). You are encouraged to volunteer for what will certainly be a fun-filled, rewarding day.
If you wish to know more about Donalda School's Debating Program, or to learn how you can take an active part, contact Don Seale at Donalda School (403-883-2280).
Over the past nine years, Donalda School has had the pleasure of putting on six dinner theater productions under the direction of Mrs. Shonna Burkard.
Each production utilizes students in grades six through nine, not only on stage, but also behind the scenes with technical requirements. Every show requires dedicated actors and technical crew, and every year, our students impress everyone with their capabilities.
The rehearsal process starts usually in late January or early February with two rehearsals a week after school, and as the productions dates near, we increase our time together to ensure a solid product. In March, we hold a workday where a few cast members, parents, and community volunteers work together to rebuild and design our set for the newest show. The support for our production by parents, the school, and community is overwhelming. As we approach the show dates, usually the first weekend in May, we may add a few extra rehearsals to fine tune. We always hold two dress rehearsals the week before the show, where we use full costumes, make-up, lighting and sound cues to give the cast and crew a chance to work out glitches. Then, it is full steam ahead.
In order to put on a successful show, we need a dedicated cast, but we also need a dedicated crew. This crew includes a stage manager, lighting technician, sound technician, props manager, and make-up artists, to name a few. Students fill these important roles. The make-up artists are usually former students. Costume searching becomes a joint effort by students and parents. Put all this together and you have the recipe for a great production.
A dinner theater wouldnít exist without food, and a wonderful meal is what we offer. Every year we recruit our local parent caterer, Teresa Kneeland, who puts on an amazing meal that leaves every audience member wanting more.
The show usually runs the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening in May, with a matinee performance for schools on the Friday.
The entire process is a huge undertaking for everyone involved. Between the time required for rehearsals, memorizing lines, searching for props, set pieces and costumes, selling tickets, and the entire pre-production process, one can see how dedicated individuals have to be. The program was started to give an alternative extra-curricular activity for students in the fine arts. This has turned into a tradition where students not only get to learn an appreciation for fine arts, but develop skills in leadership, team-building, responsibility, commitment, and confidence, to name a few.
The best part of the process comes with the development of a family that is a natural creation. Every person develops a deeper understanding and appreciation for every individual involved. Theater brings people from all different backgrounds and interest levels together, and celebrates those differences as a combined unit. This is how our family is formed.
The Donalda School Chess Club, when active, meets in the computer room at noon hours, and is encouraged to develop skills and correct competitive attitudes toward the game of chess. The club blends a study of the "art of chess" with the fun of playing the game.
Music Appreciation Club
Donalda School offers its primary and elementary students 80 minutes of music instruction per week. The program includes participation in a Christmas Concert and the Kindergarten Graduation program. Donalda students have successfully pitted their musical skills at the Stettler Music Festival.