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Sunderland Elementary Students Debate Oysters

And learn to politely disagree

Sunderland Elementary School oyster debaters Wyatt Ford, Madelyn Stay, Joe Bollo, Brody Whittington, Avery Mohr, Eden Klahr and Nicholas Thomas.
       A debate on Asian oysters engaged Sunderland Elementary School students in reading, writing and speaking — skills the world’s first universities considered essential for leading and for promoting the best ideas.
      Rising to the challenge, students went beyond arguing pro or con.
     “Teams got a graphic organizer and a list of social roles to play — restaurant owner, waterman, environmentalist and scientist,” said fifth grade teacher Melissa Sydnor. “Then students had to choose a lens to look at the information through. They also needed to develop four clear and distinct reasons to support their decision.”
      “We picked our own teams,” says student Eden Klahr. “We then got our topic, did research and had a first debate in school, in front of only classmates and teachers.”
      After one con and one pro team won, they did more research in preparation for their public debate. 
      “I chose con because introducing exotic species is not always the best thing to do when you’re in a pickle,” says Klahr, who played the role of the business owner, arguing that the new species might take longer to cook.
      The pro side pointed to the “positive impact the Asian oyster would have on the local economy — supporting jobs and restaurants as well as improving the cleanliness of the Bay,” says Ava Robshaw, a member of the pro team.
       Those are some of the same arguments advocates and politicans made in favor of importing Crassostrea ariakensis into the Bay in the 1990s and early 2000s.
      “This was a great success,” the teacher says. “We have already begun to adjust the process for next year and may add a part about aquaculture.”  
      The outcome? The con team won the student vote, while panelists voted in favor of the pro team.
      “I really enjoyed the debate,” Klahr says. “I learned that there are lots of people who care about the Bay and it creatures.”