The Grade 5 classrooms were divided by a line of opposing desks, soon to be filled with the debate teams for DCD’s annual Athenian/Spartan debate! Taking their seats, each group began with opening statements in which they made their cases that they were the best city-state in Greece, thinking critically and speaking proudly to highlight their clear strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

In Mrs. Bemis’s class, Dr. Haith, Mrs. Ouellette and Mrs. Gage served as the judges for the discussion, listening intently to the arguments to determine the winner. Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Liebhoff, and Mr. Brown evaluated students’ performances in Mrs. Chiari’s class. Fifth graders offered speeches and responses showcasing their knowledge of government, military, women, childhood & education, daily life, and art & architecture. Each group had an opportunity to ask questions to the opposition in hopes of undermining and debunking each other’s arguments.

In Mrs. Chiari’s class, Sparta asked Athens, “How did Athens make decisions with so many people at assembly?”

“We are the first democracy which many free nations today are modeled after. We make decisions with our citizens in mind,” the government presenters of Athens responded.

In Mrs. Bemis’s room, Athens asked Sparta, “Why didn’t you let your soldiers wear shoes even in bad weather?”

Sparta responded, “We only want strong warriors in our country,” noting the prioritization of a unified front.

The floor was then opened for five minutes, and students clamored to ask questions, raising their hands and patiently waiting to engage in spirited, deep, thoughtful discussion. Athens’ main arguments were that they emphasized balanced lifestyles, democracy, and strategic-thinking for a robust cultural epicenter. Sparta, on the other hand, asserted that they were the strongest military force, and that they provided men and women equal fighting and voting opportunities.

The judges went into seclusion to deliberate and evaluate teams based on confidence, presentation of facts, and strength in rebuttals. Then, they totaled the winning argument of each category to land on the victorious city-state.

Upon the judges returning to Mrs. Bemis’s class, Dr. Haith paused, and a moment of tension fell over the room before she announced the winning city-state. “We want to thank you for being respectful to each other. After much deliberation, the victorious city state is Sparta!”

In Mrs. Chiari’s class, Mr. Brown noted, “I’m thoroughly impressed with everyone, and I admire everyone’s debating skills. Team Spata is the winner!”

Team Sparta cheered with enthusiasm and then stood to shake Team Athens hands, demonstrating admirable sportsmanship and grace. Through their initial research to the culminating delivery of their arguments, students learned to speak to each other respectfully while arguing for their team, they listened to the arguments of their competitors to synthesize information, and they crafted well-researched rebuttals exhibiting confidence in public-speaking— a core value for all DCD students. Thank you to Mrs. Bemis and Mrs. Chiari for organizing this important active lesson for our DCD fifth graders. Thank you to the judges for both debates!