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Academics, Middle School

Middle Schoolers Debate for Pacific Northwest Land Rights

Three teams of seventh grade Humanities students engrossed their peers with passionate arguments during the annual World Court Debates on Friday, Oct. 19. The debates were the culmination of a history unit focused on the 1800s.

To prepare for the debates, students split into teams and researched either the U.S.A., Spain, England, Russia, or First Nation peoples for two weeks. Each team argued through opening statements, rebuttals, and closing statements that their nation best deserved ownership of the Pacific Northwest territories in the 1800s.

“The rebuttal was one of the hardest parts of the debate for me,” said Izzy S., a member of the First Nation team. “I am a person that likes to plan ahead, but there are some points you can’t plan for. The debate was spontaneous, hard, but a lot of fun. It really tested your knowledge and your research.”

For a majority of seventh grade students, the World Court Debates was their first exercise with a formal argument structure. The project also introduced the impact of world politics on the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Humanities teachers Erikk Hood and Tamara Bunnell worked with Northwest School librarians Suzanne Fox and Alicia Kalan to help students effectively use databases for research and how to organize information from multiple sources.

“The research was challenging but it was also my favorite part,” says Mimi L., another member of the First Nation team. “You have all of this information available, and you have to pull out what you need and what is right for your topic. Since you are arguing, you have to also look at what you can use that will help the point you are trying to make.”

After a round of preliminary debates, three teams emerged as final contenders: First Nation peoples, Spain, and England. The final debate highlighted the team’s different strategies to make their case. After the dust settled the seventh-grade audience members provided feedback to the debaters. Anders W. applauded the Spanish team’s enthusiastic and entertaining rebuttals. Josephine H. appreciated the way England and the First Nations calmly presented their arguments and repeated their key points.