Ridge Forensics Team announce Online Summer Institute in Speech and Debate!

The Ridge Forensics Team, the state championship interscholastic speech and debate team for Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, is excited to announce an expanded 2020 online Summer Institute in Speech and Debate.  The annual event serves as a fundraiser to help the team with their travel and tournament expenses throughout the academic year. 

The institute will occur virtually this year offering four weeks of different courses. The institute for incoming 5th- and 6th-grade students will be July 20th through July 23rd while the institute for incoming 7th, 8th, and 9th graders will take place on July 27th through July 30th.  Both will be taught by the Ridge High School and William Annin Middle School (WAMS) coaching staffs along with members of the Ridge High School state championship team.  Following those weeks, an additional two weeks will offer supplemental programming connecting the world of speech and debate to other areas like STEM, literature, and being a 21st Century student and communicator.  These supplemental programs will be offered in two sessions: August 3rd through August 6th and August 10th through August 13th. The workshop will run between 10:00am and 3:00pm each day.

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David Yastremski, director of the Ridge Forensics Team, states, “as a result of the pandemic, we are saddened that we can’t join together this summer for our fifth year of the institute; however, our staff, all professional coaches and educators, want to provide students with the opportunity to continue growing as speakers, performers, and critical thinkers – particularly in the digital age.”

“With classrooms moving to the virtual world this spring, the communication landscape changed dramatically for young students,” Yastremski states. “Our institute will also focus on how young people can communicate their knowledge, their personalities, and their voices over technological platforms.”

All of the institute educators are full-time teachers and professors who have received training in online learning platforms as a result of the pandemic.  “This year, we will offer a greater variety of experiences based upon students’ individual needs in communicating both online and face-to-face” Yastremski states.  “It's not just about speech and debate competition; we want our students to engage in social, age-appropriate experiences even though we may not be interacting in-person.”  In addition, the members of the state-champion high school team assist the instructors by serving as coaches and mentors to the students. 

This year, RFSDI features two new faculty members bringing their expertise to the students’ experience.”  Ms. Natasha Doski is a Language Arts teacher at Ridge has been working with the Public Speaking events of the Ridge High School team.  Yastremski states, “she has judged some of the most prestigious final rounds in the country and seeks to bring her knowledge to our camp participants.” In addition, Mr. Dan Norris, AP Social Studies at Ridge will be working with the debate students this year.  Yastremski states, “Mr. Norris will be working with our competitive debate program, aimed at students who are seeking to compete at the middle-school and high-school levels.” 

The workshops will focus on developing confidence in a variety of speaking and listening situations.  Jessica Lynch, Language Arts teacher and WAMS debate coach states, “In our fifth year, we are taking advantage of developing some interesting and fun digital-learning activities so our students can feel connected and challenged over the summer months.”

The institute will feature lectures, workshops, coaching sessions, with independent and social activities, that will help students engage in learning and social experiences while they practice and polish their skills in all three genres of forensic speaking: debate, public address, and interpretation.  William Annin Middle School Science teacher and debate coach, Dr. Vivekanand Balija, states, “Our daily schedule will allow students to step away from their screens to practice, apply, and have some fun with our approaches to the various types of speaking and debating activities. Most importantly, the skills will transfer to both online and face-to-face worlds – so students will be ready for whatever learning environments await them in the future.”

Stephanie Fletcher, assistant coach of the team, adds, “As a parent, I want my children to have social and engaging activities which will help them develop and bridge their skills for when they will go back to their classrooms.  Whether our students become competitive speakers or not, all students will have an opportunity to develop their skills and interact with others in a fun, safe, exciting, and yes, even virtual, environment!”

Details and registration information can be accessed at http://www.ridgeforensics.com/summer-institute.html