Lower Schoolers debate: the Obama Presidential Center and use of Chicago parkland

Students in Ginger Phillips' third grade classroom have been learning persuasive strategies in speaking and writing—and learning how to be, as Dewey had hoped, active members of a democratic society,

First, they did their research: studying Chicago's most historically well-established and innovative gardens and parks, including Frederick Law Olmsted's Jackson Park, where the Obama Presidential Center will be built. By taking a closer look at neighborhood concerns over the building project, and integrating their own experience of the park (where are children going to play if the park goes away?), students learned how to assemble and support a position. Then they held a debate. Resolved: that the OPC should be built in Jackson Park.

In preparation, students downloaded the Vamonde app, which provides historical context and visitor analytics for Jackson Park. Then, they visited the park themselves. Applying research from the app, students gathered their own place-based insights of Jackson Park to inform their positions.

Students were divided into traditional affirmative and negative roles for the debate, and were provided an evidence sheet to prompt persuasive rhetoric and to help them develop their arguments. Students held three practice rounds before the final debate moderated by Lower School Principal Sylvie Anglin.

With students surrounding the tables in the Lab Boardroom, the affirmative side held sway.

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