Who Stays, Who Goes?

Dr. Covino's class uses the balloon debate model to learn about famous world figures.
Today Dr. Covino’s freshman honors modern world history class held a balloon debate, long a staple of public speaking and debate training. In the balloon’s “basket” were freshmen taking on the characters of explorers, soldiers, statesmen, authors, and intellectuals from around the world (prior to 1500) whom they had chosen themselves and researched. Using no notes, the participants in the debate tried to persuade their peers why they should not be the ones to be thrown overboard using whatever rhetorical tactics they could—barring lies. (Even in the fictional balloon, we do not tolerate that behavior in ourselves or others. #honorpledge)
“The balloon debate, in addition to being great fun, provides a chance for students to exercise some choice over their learning. As a formative exercise, it gives each girl a personal and authentic connection to a figure from world history and sets up a lot of pieces on the board to inform subsequent discussions of leadership and government," says Covino. "It is also endlessly fascinating to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of swaying their peers. It was great to see the girls really get into character and give it their all in front of not just their peers and me but also my history and social sciences colleagues Drs. Lightfoot and Harrison.”
Three students survived three rounds of speech-making and culls to make it into the final round of the debate: Steff Molloy as Deganawida, the Great Peacemaker, traditionally thought to be the founder of the Iroquois Confederacy; Evalynn Mann as the ghazi Osman, founder of the Ottoman Empire; and Sophia McGee as Sundiata of Mali. In the end, and for the second year in a row, the girl portraying Osman (Mann) was last one standing and, thus, the winner of the balloon debate.