Boston Debate League

Speech Bums: Summer Debate Camp

September 20, 2022 | By Sara Gill

Fun & Learning at BDL’s Debate Camp

The BDL’s two-week Debate Camp took place from August 15-26 at Timilty Middle School. Debate Camp is an opportunity for new and returning debaters to connect with one another; build community; develop their skills in research and making claims, evidence, and reasoning; and prepare for the upcoming debate season. This year, 100 debaters from schools in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and beyond participated in camp. A facilitator team of ten BDL alumni and four current and former debate coaches led small groups, or “Learning Labs,” based on student grade, skill level, and experience with debate.

We adjusted our camp format this year, allowing more opportunities for career exploration and deep learning about issues of interest to students, such as wealth inequality, gun violence, and climate change. One way we did this was by partnering with Cambridge-based Debate Spaces, virtually connecting students in the climate change lab with youth as far away as Sri Lanka to discuss youth activism and civic engagement as a vehicle to address climate issues.

In the middle and high school varsity labs, debaters explored the upcoming year’s debate topic: emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cybersecurity. We partnered with local corporations and organizations – including Amazon, MassBio, Moderna, and Rapid7 – to connect campers to professionals in these fields. During the Moderna visit, debaters learned about careers in biotech, and engaged in debates about vaccine mandates with employees and students debating together on teams. Rapid7 did the same type of debate, with students and employees working together to debate whether the government should be required to subsidize the cost of cybersecurity for all businesses. Some of the high school students also participated in a workshop led by two-time world champion debater and author Bo Seo.

In an end-of-camp survey, 90% of campers agreed that they improved at building and analyzing arguments; got to use their mind and think critically; felt connected to the BDL community; enhanced their public speaking skills; and had fun. Another 80% of campers agreed that they developed as leaders, beyond improving their debate skills. As one camper shared, “I grew personally because I learned to work in a group, and I also grew in debate because I learned many skills.”

Students at Debate Camp met with employees from Rapid7, a cybersecurity firm based in Boston. Students and Rapid7 employees worked together to debate whether the government should be required to subsidize the cost of cybersecurity for all businesses.