The NSD Middle School curriculum is designed by Kris Wright and Tom Evnen — who each have over seven years of experience designing curriculum for some of the nation’s most successful LD debate camps. And or over a decade, they have coached debaters to tremendous local and national success. Kris Wright coached TFA champions in LD and Policy debate, and his students have reached elimination rounds of NSDA Nationals and the Tournament of Champions in both events (including a semifinalist). While coaching at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Tom Evnen coached three students, in consecutive years, to finals at the NSDA High School National Tournament, winning twice. He also coached Hockaday’s middle school debate team, which was one of the best in the country during that time.
The NSD Middle School curriculum is grounded in the recognition that an excellent middle school debate camp is one that builds strong foundations for high school and beyond—below are that foundation’s five layers:
(1) Knowledge of philosophy and debate terminology
Debate is a kind of literacy. The language of competitive debate is borrowed from multiple academic disciplines—including philosophy, political science, statistics, and more—and debate even has its own jargon. Not only does this mean that a debater needs to learn the meanings of advanced terminology, but also that the debater needs to learn how to read advanced texts— those well beyond the abilities usually expected of someone their age. Recognizing that a strong debate foundation requires helping students to develop this kind of literacy, our curriculum emphasizes not only research-based strategies for helping students learn to meaningfully use advanced terminology, but also employs research-based strategies for teaching students to critically analyze complicated texts.
(2) Skills in argumentation and strategy
NSD Middle School Institute will train students to master the skills of argumentation and strategy through a variety of carefully crafted activities. Our instructors will help students practice developing arguments and executing strategy in practice rounds, “stop-start” rounds (where the instructor judging the round stops the round during each student’s speeches, gives feedback and then has the student redo that speech), strategy games, debate drills, and mini- debates. Students will walk away from camp with a keen eye for strategy and well-justified arguments.
(3) A good work ethic, healthy habits
NSD Middle School Institute is unique in its recognition that one of the most important skill sets to be taught to middle school debaters are the meta-cognitive skills, grit, and healthy habits needed to cultivate a love for learning, a commitment to working diligently and purposefully, and a routine that enables students to enjoy their experience, rather than become overwhelmed with work and over stressed. Our curriculum is designed to purposefully work on helping our students develop these skills and habits, including learning to be organized, manage multiple complex assignments and due dates, and effectively use their time through setting priorities and managing time well. And by cultivating a fun atmosphere where students are encouraged to learn from their struggles and failures, students will become invested in debate and learning.
(4) Fun & investment in debate
Competitive debate can be quite intense, and sometimes students by their senior year of high school are burnt out on the competition and long work hours. NSD Middle School Institute believes that it is essential that debate remain fun, interesting, and empowering for students. Our curriculum is designed to encourage students to have fun with their learning, so that debate can be a healthy and positive experience for them—all the way through high school and beyond.
(5) Backwards planning for high school
Achieving excellence does not simply happen. It requires knowing how to set ambitious goals and then backwards plan the steps needed to achieve them. Becoming a State and Nationally competitive high school debater, while also excelling in school and then earning admission to an elite college, requires knowing how to backwards plan for successful middle and high school years—that is, plan with the debate success and impressive college admissions in mind. Our staff has extensive experience teaching students to become excellent scholars and earn admission to the nation’s best universities, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, University of Chicago, and the University of Texas at Austin.
For students enrolled in the 2-week session, they will be assigned a staff mentor to provide additional one-on-one help. Additionally, each student enrolled in the 2-week session will receive a post-camp evaluation that summarizes, with evidence, areas the student has demonstrated improvement, areas the student should continue to work on improving, and suggested drills and activities that the student’s coach (and/or the student themselves) can use to continue building on the growth from camp. With student & parent/guardian permission, NSD Middle School Director Kris Wright will also send an email to the student’s coach that explains how hard the student worked and how much they improved at camp. Kris will share with the coach the areas that the student needs to continue improving, including suggested drills the coach can do with the student to help them work on those weaknesses.