Speaking Up

Students practice debate skills in two-week summer program

Who ever said summer is when your brain takes a vacation, too?

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Students participate in a “BINGO”-formatted ice breaker

This month, some students have put their minds to a unique challenge. International Institute of Akron’s (IIA) Inquiring Minds Summer Debate Camp has welcomed 24 students to participate in debate exercises and lectures at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® STEM Middle School. The camp kicked-off on June 14 and will continue through June 24.

IIA has partnered with Akron Public Schools (APS) and Summit Education Initiative (SEI) to administer the camp, which is funded through Akron Community Foundation.

“At IIA, we are proud to create opportunities for youth to engage in activities that break down cultural barriers and build community,” says Ming-Hao Shiao, director of education and employment. “Debate education is an effective tool in this process, and has long been a vital part of education and civic participation in the U.S. Civic engagement is an important part of what it means to be an American, and we want to give children the opportunity, skills and confidence to participate fully in the community.”

Inquiring Minds will feature lessons with individuals visiting from Claremont University and Cornell University. Claremont and Cornell representatives will use the camp and its outcomes as a pilot for use in school districts similar to Akron Public Schools. This is the first time a camp like Inquiring Minds has been hosted in a city like Akron.

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Ming-Hao Shiao chooses a trait or interest from a student’s BINGO card on which to sign her name during an ice breaker activity.

In addition to the valuable partnership opportunity Inquiring Minds provides, the camp also offers an outlet for students during summer break to better engage with learning; particularly for non-native students learning English.

Inquiring Minds debate topics include: ban boxing; schools should require uniforms for all students; the U.S. should abolish the death penalty; and public college education should be free. IIA and its partners hope the participating students – half of whom are taking English as a second language – learn to better develop their communication skills, as well as build confidence in their speaking abilities.

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Students learn about debate techniques in class

“The Inquiring Minds project is a creative way to engage young students in critical thinking, collaboration and communication training,” says Carla Sibley, Community Relations, APS. “We are always looking for new opportunities to give our students a competitive edge. This does that for us.”

Throughout the two-week program, Petermann Bus will provide transportation for students to and from Jennings Community Learning Center and STEM Middle School. Community members and the students’ parents are invited to attend the final “Showcase Debate” at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 24 in the Great Hall at STEM Middle School.

IIA, a community partner of SEI, is a nonprofit organization that welcomes new Americans to Akron, Ohio, and helps them make our community their home. The organization celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

You may follow IIA on Facebook and Twitter for updates as Inquiring Minds continues through next week.