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The first step in starting a good program is to find a topic that students are passionate about. One of our first topics in Stars-Edu was Higher Education in Prisons. Students argued over rather or not prisoners should be allowed a free education where they could receive a college degree while in prison. To many students this seemed unfair because here they have to go to school everyday, work hard and get good grades to compete for scholarships or pay out of pocket, while criminals and murderers get a free ride on their dime. The other side of the argument felt that allowing prisoners to get their degree while in prison helped to make them more likely to be able to re-join society without further offenses once they are released. Many prisoners are released from prison only to commit another crime and sometimes an even worse crime then are sent right back to prison, costing tax payers even more money to continue to provide free food and medical benefits, etc. Indeed both sides had great arguments. Students really enjoyed this topic and had the opportunity to work with a real prisoner who was seeking assistance from the government to finance his education while in prison. The made the debate even more real for students and ignited a deep passionate not normally seen in students of this age on topics such as this. See the opening statement from one of our 7th grade debate students here http://youtu.be/t2D3f1HDzHs .
This is the worksheet that we used to get students started with their research and evidence collection. It has both worksheets included for Affirmative and Negative teams. Follow me here on TPT and my blog for new debate topics and worksheets to come. My blog is http://stars-edu.blogspot.com/