Hello everyone! My name is Jennifer Quiroz and I am a Summer Intern at The Practice Space. This is my second instalment of my Fly on The Wall Series. This time I had the honor of observing The Practice Spaces very own Young Speakers Camp. This immersive one week camp was composed of various young children from all over the country. Each day consisted of a morning session, a lunch break, and an afternoon session. Essentially, The Young Speakers Camp was a fun and resourceful camp targeted towards students in elementary school. It was very refreshing and exciting to see how these young students were advocating for themselves and actively participating in activities that helped them build their public speaking skills. Our host, AnnMarie, alongside a group of youth mentors, guided the young participants along this journey of finding their voice, learning how to debate, and learning about the power of storytelling.
The students were divided into six groups: Pandas, Lions, Camels, Cheetahs, Hamsters, and Eagles. Each group worked towards tallying points for their teams, they were also given individual awards for their performance throughout the day. They were called Leo Awards, they were given to students who demonstrated either focus, clarity, fearlessness, and passion. It was nice to see the students have incentives to keep them motivated also just to validate all of the hard work they put in and all of the achievements they accomplished.
I joined Thursdays and Fridays sessions and it was rewarding to see all of the progress the students made each day from the practice sessions to the final performances! When I came across how young these students were, I was very interested to see how they would perform within the program. I know I struggle with keeping continuous attention during long periods of time behind a screen, so I couldn’t imagine how difficult it may have been for the young scholars. Despite a few jitters here and there, they did amazing! It was really impressive to see the amount of focus and engagement from everyone.
Each member chose a monologue that they had to perform at the end of the camp. They had time throughout the week to practice their monologues within their groups, and they were given advice by the camp mentors. The mentors gave detailed feedback, praising what they did well and also giving them specific examples of things they could improve upon. After the breakout rooms, we were all brought back together and students had the opportunity to present in front of the whole group. I remember being in awe, these students sounded very engaged and passionate in their performances — it felt like I was watching a scene from a movie! They incorporated various techniques they learned from the acting exercises they used in their breakout rooms, such as exaggerating our bodies and facial expressions. There were various shy students that really came out of their shell and gave amazing performances — their performances brought me joy. It even gave me hope and inspiration as I found the young students to be my public speaking role models.
There were also debates that occurred during the afternoon sessions. Each member was separated into their respectives groups’ breakout room to prepare for the whole class debate. They generated all of the ideas and with the guidance of their mentors, they formulated their speeches. They were given difficult topics such as: Should we extend the quarantine an extra two years? Should access to regional and national parks be free? Or Should homework be eliminated? They didn’t get to choose whether they wanted to be pro or con, rather their groups were randomly assigned a position. Despite not being able to choose their stances, they brought about great points and even had thought provoking discussions after each side presented.
Overall, the program cultivated a very welcoming and supportive environment that I believe helped everyone feel comfortable putting themselves out there. Public Speaking is an intimidating task and I was impressed to see how easy it was for them to frequently speak up during lecture and during their performances. There was a story time section during the morning session where everyone was encouraged to bring out a blanket to fully engage in the comforting task of listening to a fun story as a group. This was one of the beautiful moments that captured the great community and sense of comfort everyone built within this little virtual world. Even during our 10 minute breaks, students were still hanging out in the zoom chat conversing which I found to be quite wholesome. The program really valued comfort and creativity through each intentional activity and I believe it was a fun experience for the developing public speaking experts. If you’d like to have access to more highlights from the summer camps at the practice space, check out this YouTube video!