07/05/06 — Eastern Wayne Middle School debate team to attend Model U.N. conference

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Eastern Wayne Middle School debate team to attend Model U.N. conference

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 5, 2006 1:46 PM

A debate team formed last year at Eastern Wayne Middle School to boost students' test skills has earned a spot at the Model United Nations Conference later this year.

Mary Susan Heath, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at the school, is advisor for the team.

"I started it because at seventh grade the students are tested on argumentative persuasive writing, the same kind of skills used in debate. In debate, you learn to take a position, support it with information and research, logic and so forth," Mrs. Heath said.

While such skills are useful in speaking as well as writing, it also helps that students at that age thrive on some such elements, she said.

"Middle school students do like to argue. They're very opinionated, care very much about being listened to. This is a way of giving them an audience," she said.

Open to sixth through eighth graders at the school, the team initially met once a month on club day. But students expressed so much interest in the team that Mrs. Heath set up meetings once a week.

In December, she will take a group to New York for the two-day Model United Nations Conference. Before leaving, students will be given an assigned topic and each participant will represent the viewpoint of a country and argue that country's position on the issue.

The conference is an attempt to simulate what's going on in the United Nations building, Mrs. Heath said.

"They try to pick an issue that's of current concern in the world, to help them understand that these are issues they need to be involved in and show that they can have an impact," she said.

It is a stringent process, she said. Students will have to submit position papers ahead of time, following strict guidelines, as well as making all the preparations for their presentation at the conference.

With the annual event held at the United Nations, Mrs. Heath said she expects students will also get an opportunity to take a tour and observe business in progress.

Mrs. Heath said the idea of a middle school debate team is not unique, although she is unaware of any in the surrounding area.

"There are a lot of Model UN clubs throughout the United States, not so many at the middle school level. This particular conference in December is just for middle schools and is open to any debate club or Model UN organization throughout the U.S.," she said.

She said her goal is to take any of her students who want to prepare for the challenge. She said she plans to meet with parents and students in the fall and discuss what it will entail.

One of the things needed will be money. After a recent presentation the team made at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Goldsboro, she said the club made a donation to help the team. Mrs. Heath said the team might plan presentations before other groups to elicit support.