Samantha Cowley was a nervous public speaker as a child. Her mother would also shy away from tasks that required presenting publicly. However, Samantha didn’t want nerves getting in the way of her children diving headfirst into life. So she did one life-changing thing, she enrolled them into a debating club.
“When my son and daughter first started, they were unsure. I remember how tense they were in the lead up to their first evening debate, nerves were getting the better of them. However, by the end of the year, they stood proud with their shoulders back, looked directly at the audience and tackled rebuttal with gusto,” Samantha said.
Samantha noticed that over time her children could articulate their thoughts clearer and think on their feet. They were actually wanting to research on the internet; investigating topics, analysing information and finding solutions to problems. She couldn’t believe it. But the most remarkable difference she noticed in her kids, was their new-found shining light of confidence.
Eager to help other families harness the skills that were benefiting her children, Samatha launched Debating Australia in 2016. An online platform that connects debaters of all experiences and ages.
“After running debating classes at my children’s school, I had realised there were not many opportunities for children to participate in debating in a wider context. I wanted to change that,” she said.
“I thought that many other parents would feel the same way as I did, and would want to give their children the chance to grow into articulate young people. Public speaking and thinking on one’s feet should be something to embrace, not fear. It teaches us to harness our emotions, communicate effectively and develop independent thought.”
Debating Australia’s The Online Debating Club gives students from Year 4 to 8 the opportunity to hone in on these skills (otherwise known as soft skills) in a positive and supportive environment. Children collaborate in teams to develop arguments and rebuttal, developing lifelong friendships along the way.
“Just like any team sport, no child will win every debate. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. The beauty of these friendships is that they are built on solid communication, respect and teamwork, which paves the way for deep and meaningful bonds. When kids win, they win as a team, and when they lose, they lose together.”
Experiences like these are proven to enhance a child’s soft skills, which essentially are a blend of communication skills, people skills, personality traits, attitudes and social and emotional intelligence. Such as the ability to lose gracefully, critically think or speak with conviction and confidence. All of which are embedded within Debating Australia’s online program.
In weekly sessions, children get to connect with like-minded classmates in Zoom breakout rooms to participate in games, brainstorming sessions, interactive activities and mock debates. All in preparation for the mid and end of term formal debates against other classes from Brisbane and beyond.
In 2020, with the surge of a global pandemic, we saw an evolution of how the world operated. Office workers were logging in from home, meetings were held via webcam, universities moved to online models and students from Prep to Year 12, were participating in school from laptops in their living rooms. This paradigm shift has been so powerful, a study by McKinsey & Company found that the automation and digitalism of industries are accelerating faster than predicted, as a result of COVID-19. Which means, more than ever, students need to get comfortable existing in the online world to ensure they get the most out of school, work and life.
In Debating Australia’s online program, children get to engage with these technologies to develop crucial 21st-century skills whilst learning more about themselves and the world they live in. They receive mentoring from blue card registered Debate Coaches and collaborate through digital platforms to define topics, develop arguments, research, learn how to find reliable sources, use persuasive techniques and deliver speech with flair. Valuable skills that not only set a student up to excel throughout high school, but succeed in life.
Debating Australia’s terms run in conjunction with the school term, and keen debaters-to-be can choose to participate in one class per week. Designed to work around the busy lifestyles of parents and students, families can choose from the following schedule:
- Monday to Friday 7:10 am to 7:55 am
- Monday to Thursday 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm
- Monday to Thursday 4:35 pm to 5:20 pm
Term one is just around the corner, and Debating Australia is looking to reach out to young, ambitious Queenslanders who are looking for a new challenge. If your child has a knack for friendly competition and desires to make new friends, then debate club is the place for them! (But a fair warning, they will learn how to hold a strong argument, so those dinnertime debates getting them to eat their vegetables might get a little harder. )
To find out more about Debating Australia and its online youth program, visit www.debatingaustralia.com.