Kids learn the art of debating at camp

Campers take part in workshops, outdoor activities and trivia games

Creative and competitive, Debate Camp offers a unique experience combining instruction in debating and public speaking with the fun and frivolity of traditional camp activities. Designed for children in Grades 5 to 10, the day camp is suited for kids who either have experience debating and public speaking or who are interested in learning.

According to Camp Director Nick Szymanis, the goal is to teach kids how to frame their ideas into coherent arguments,  listen to their opponents and formulate an appropriate response; skills which are useful in both academic and social settings. By the end of the week, children are able to effectively deliver speeches as long as four or five minutes long.

“The skills you get as a debater are universal,” Szymanis says. “You take them back to your classroom and you get a much better grade on your next presentation, but you’re also going to be much better when engaging in dialogue with your peers about something substantive, to which there may be a couple of different opinions.”

Camp days are broken up into workshops, outdoor activities and trivia games. On Friday, the last day of camp, parents are invited to an open house and a debate tournament.

“We need them to go home after day one feeling like they had a lot more fun than they initially expected,” Szymanis says. “We keep it random, fun, interactive, creative, and competitive, to make it much more like camp and far less like school.”

Szymanis employs award-winning and high-level debaters at the university and high school levels as well as interns who have previously participated in the camp. However, the most important criteria, he says, is their ability to connect with the kids.

“We train them well; they have to be inspirational and excellent with kids,” he says. “We want them to be camp counsellors first, champion debaters second.”

Debate Camp has locations across Canada and the United States. They opened in Montreal in 2016 and currently operate out of the Trafalgar School for girls. To meet increasing demand for the program, a second session has been added this year. The camp is scheduled to run July 6-10 and 13-17. The cost is $510.

For more information, visit debatecamp.com.