NSD’s curriculum does it differently than most camps. Time in a camp day is limited, and two weeks is a short time, so our curriculum is designed to ensure we aren’t wasting anyone’s time. Lots of camps fill time with needless lectures that staff throw together the night before. At NSD, we prepare a few lectures ahead of time on only essential, key skills and the current topic. Almost the entire remainder of camp time, whether in lab or in an individualized mentorship session, is dedicated to applying these skills through practice rounds and drills. This way, every single student leaves camp with tons of experience honing fundamental skills.
The extra practice round and drill time we offer also allows us to ensure that students can actually apply the concepts they’ve learned from lectures. Often, students will understand what they have to do in theory, but will struggle executing high-level speeches or may not even be noticing where they’re getting tripped up. The only way to solve these problems is through consistent practice with an instructor offering feedback, which is why NSD PF’s curriculum makes sure to devote enough time to drills and rounds.
Students are grouped into labs based on experience level, and these groups form the backbone of the NSD experience. Small lab pairings, led by experienced instructors, ensure individualized attention and encourage a sense of camaraderie. Lab time is different from most camps, where instructors have students do topic research while they sit at the front of the room and wait to see if anyone has questions. At NSD, instructors take a hands-on approach and will constantly involve students in drills and practice debates. These drills will correspond to lectures and will ask students to apply the skills they learn in lectures. This way, students can make sure they fully understand and internalize the skills they are taught.
The lectures we offer will each taught by two faculty members, break down different essential skills into half-hour seminars. Each lecture is tailored to be accessible at different experience levels and helps students develop and distill techniques that they can later practice repeatedly during lab time and mentorship time. Each lecture will educate debaters about skills that are crucial to success (casing, rebuttal, summary, final focus, analysis) and provide a depth of insight that will help even the best debaters improve.
Each student at NSD will be assigned a staff mentor to meet with every other day. In these mentorship sessions, students can personalize meetings to have instructors review any skill they find they need more help with. This way, every single student is guaranteed one-on-one time to help them wherever they feel they need the most improvement. These more individualized interactions make sure nobody falls behind. If a student is struggling with a certain skill, they always have the time to go over that area of weakness one-on-one with a staff member.
At NSD, every student is guaranteed to compete against fellow campers in at least 15 practice debates. These debates will happen on previous topics as well as the upcoming September/October topic for the 2018-2019 season. After each debate, instructors will provide extensive feedback on what students can do to improve. These practice rounds will culminate in the annual NSD Camp Tournament, which occurs at the end of camp and provides a final opportunity for students to showcase the skills they have learned.