Mock Trials Wrap Up Fall Semester

Finishing up ten weeks of the workings of the judicial system, analyzing cases, and developing arguments to present a 1st Amendment case, middle school students in 12 different middle schools from Boston to Lowell are ready for their Mock Trial. 

This year’s Mock Trial culminating events will be different. In past years, each of the teams had the opportunity to present their work to a state or federal judge, a clerk, a jury of volunteers and an audience of families and friends at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston. Yet this year, the Mock Trials will be held completely online and be scheduled with each individual team in mind, rather than one event with all the teams together at the Courthouse. Although the venue has changed, the online events will work to capture the same sense of community and fantastic energy of the in-person events..

Eleven mock trials are scheduled from December 15th to December 21st. During the virtual Mock Trial, teams of students will be presenting their case over Zoom, before a judge, a clerk, an audience of family members, teachers, civic leaders, and a jury of community members! If you would like to watch a Mock Trial, sign up here. And feel free to watch a video of Judge Nathaniel Gorton prepping our jurors for their roles, 

If you are interested in being part of the experience as a volunteer juror, click here to see the schedule and register to sit on a jury and render a verdict. Please register by Wednesday, December 9th. To learn more about what to expect from your experience serving on a Discovering Justice Mock Trial jury, please watch the following message from federal Judge and friend of DJ: Judge Nathaniel Gorton.

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Photo/Reba Saldanha  June 17, 2020

Mock Trial Program October Newsletter

Welcome to our Discovering Justice Mock Trial Newsletter! Even in this challenging and uncertain time of COVID19, our Fall 2020 semester kicked off to a great virtual start! Discovering Justice has been thrilled with the level of enthusiasm, ingenuity, and adaptability of our legal mentors, students, and teachers this semester. 

Moving forward, these newsletters are designed to bring our Discovering Justice Mock Trial community together by highlighting participants, showcasing bright spots, impactful work, and serving as a central location for important news, tips, and strategies for our teams to excel!

Updates

Over the past three weeks, we have asyconystly begun our programming across the Commonwealth with teams in Boston, Somerville, Waltham, and Lowell. Here is a list of our Mock Trial Teams (school & legal partner) for Fall 2020!


Program Highlight

The Mock Trial Program aims to bring these four values to life through an engaging curriculum delivered by our wonderful legal mentors. We will highlight the four values throughout the Fall. 

One transferable skill we hope our students gain from our program is the ability to see multiple perspectives and develop and make an argument for any side.

Our organization holds perspective taking in high regard for our students in our Mock Trial Program and for everyone in our community as we try to democratically solve our collective problems together. Perspective taking is a necessary skill for us all as community members as we work towards justice.

This week students practiced perspective taking in our “Face Off” activity. Students had 60 seconds to argue their side then switched sides and argue for the opposite side.

One BLS student delivered a skillful and passionate argument about how cats are clearly better than dogs. You wouldn’t know she thought “that was hard because I don’t really like cats at all!”

After participating in this activity, sixth graders from the Tobin School brought up how difficult it must be for lawyers to argue for something that they may not personally believe in order to have a fair trial. The activity was a huge success and a lot of fun!

 

Student Spotlight


Meet Abigail Roskind, a 7th grader at the McDevitt School in Waltham. 

“I joined Discovering Justice because I have been waiting to be a lawyer for a really long time and this was my chance to finally see what that would be like. My favorite part of this program so far has been meeting all of these new people and getting an inside view of how our justice system works.”

Tips / Strategies for Teams:

  • Assign a timekeeper: The Mintz legal team did an excellent job with pacing the session by assigning one member the role of timekeeper to ensure they were able to cover everything in the session!
  • The Chat: Interacting with students over the chat is an easy way to keep the class engaged and help shyer student voices to be heard. One group implemented a community standard of typing an exclamation mark in the chat when students hear something they agree with, or typing a smiley face to show understanding of a topic before moving on. The McDevitt Team has students type an exclamation point when they want to share something out loud, and has found it helpful to assign one legal mentor the role of monitoring and responding to students in the chat.

  • Tips / Strategies for Teams:


    • Assign a timekeeper: The Mintz legal team did an excellent job with pacing the session by assigning one member the role of timekeeper to ensure they were able to cover everything in the session!

    • The Chat: Interacting with students over the chat is an easy way to keep the class engaged and help shyer student voices to be heard. One group implemented a community standard of typing an exclamation mark in the chat when students hear something they agree with, or typing a smiley face to show understanding of a topic before moving on. The McDevitt Team has students type an exclamation point when they want to share something out loud, and has found it helpful to assign one legal mentor the role of monitoring and responding to students in the chat.

    • Team communication: A consistent theme of a successful team of legal mentors and the school’s teacher has been communication. It is vital to share all instructions among your group of legal mentors so that all activities and breakout rooms are carried out effectively and timely.

    Message from the Mock Trial Program Manager

    Hello everyone and welcome to the Mock Trial Program Newsletter! 

    I am extremely proud of the work being done by our partners – the law firms and schools that make this program possible, and the individual legal mentors and teacher leaders who show up every week for their students! We are grateful to have many returning legal mentors and schools this semester. I also want to welcome our new legal mentors and new students teams to our program. Our new legal mentors include Boston University Law School and Committee for Public Counsel Services (Lowell). I am also happy to welcome three new schools to our program: McDevitt Middle School, Butler Middle School, and James Sullivan Middle School. 

    DJ’s program team has done a wonderful amount of work this summer to make sure our Mock Trial Program could be accessible to teams across the Commonwealth during COVID-19 by moving our curriculum online with engaging activities and lessons. We are proud of our updated virtual materials and are impressed with the legal mentors for jumping in feet first!

    We are excited about the new cases we are offering this fall. Built around the First Amendment, these cases have students investigate the intersection of free speech and cyberbullying, the tension of a school newspaper’s desire to uncover a groundbreaking scandal and a school administration’s desire to protect the privacy of their students, and what messages can and cannot be worn during a school day. I want to give a huge shout-out to our friends at Liberty Mutual and WilmerHale for helping us create these new cases.

    Last, but certainly not least, welcome Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial fellow, Alzeta Wilson to our team! She will be supporting our teams week to week and revising and updating our material as we prepare for the Spring! She is a great educator and we are lucky to have her on our team!

    Hope to see you in a virtual Mock Trial Session soon!

    Luke Matys

    Discovering Justice

    Senior Education Associate

    Mock Trial Program Manager

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Discovering Justice Launches Long Range Planning Process

Looking to sketch out an ambitious plan to bring a robust civic education program to all corners of the Commonwealth, Discovering Justice has embarked on the development of a strategic plan to guide its work over the next three years.

To help guide the Project, Discovering Justice Has hired Jackie Jenkins-Scott (Right) Founder and President of JJS Advising and Marta Rosa (Left), President of MTR Consulting Services, two nonprofits leaders from the Boston area. Over the four month process, Jenkins-Scott and Rosa will conduct a scan of the needs for civic education across the Commonwealth, assess the resources available across the sector, and work with the Board, staff, and organizational partners to develop focused strategies to bring high quality civic education to Massachusetts students. In addition, supporters and volunteers of Discovery Justices will be surveyed to solicit their input 

Through the process, the organization will discuss critical issues such as what programs should be expanded, what grades levels should be focused on, how to develop programs that discuss injustices in the system, and how to identify potential sources of revenue to fund the work.

A final report is expected after the new year and will be released to the Discovering Justice Members and the general public.

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Photo/Reba Saldanha  Discovering Justice Mock Trials December 10, 2019

Mock Trial Program Goes Online

On September 24th, Discovering Justice hosted its first ever online orientation for more than 40 legal mentors, to prepare partners for the upcoming 2020 Fall Mock Trial season.

Judge Donald Cabell kicked off the training, describing his experience with the program and reiterating his gratitude for attorneys volunteering their time to participate in the program. Over the course of the two hour orientation, legal mentors experienced an online class, assessed the particular challenges we face this semester, and collaborated together to problem-solve these challenges.

Discovering Justice will virtually launch its 2020 Fall Mock Trial Program on October 5th to continue the program’s 20 year history. Students, legal mentors, and teachers from across the state will be engaged online on cases focused on 1st and 4th Amendment rights. The Discovering Justice staff have created a number of interactive learning materials and activities to ensure that students have the opportunity to build their civic skills, engage with the greater community, and transform into empowered community members.

Thirteen teams from across the state are expected to participate.

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Statewide Conference Pushes Civic Education and Engagement

On September 24-25, hundreds of K-12 educators and school and district leaders across the Commonwealth joined together virtually for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Annual Civic Literacy Conference. This year the focus of the conference was Civic Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions: Building Student Capacity for Civic Engagement. 

Discovering Justice Education Program Director, Laura Brenner, and Boston Public Schools Grade 5 Teacher, Jessica Hyland led a workshop for teachers and administrators called Active Engagement and Critical Thinking: Mock Trials in the Elementary Classroom. The Workshop laid out Discovering Justice’s new virtual mini mock trial units for grades 1-5 to be used either online or in the classroom. The modules range from lessons on how to mediate disputes using the Boston Massacre as a context to discussing ownership rights, using Native American artifacts at a museum as a case study. 

This summer, a team of teachers from Lowell and Boston Public Schools worked with Discovering Justice to create these new standards aligned virtual units to be piloted this fall 2020. DJ’s new virtual units are designed to meet students’ and teachers’ current needs by being:

  • fully accessible and usable virtually (online powerpoint and accompanying virtual worksheets can be used for any model of teaching)
  • inquiry based 
  • covers key history & social sciences practice, literacy, and content standards in 7-10 lessons
  • flexible to be used as a stand alone unit or to extend, enhance, & supplement CDJ or other social studies, civics, or ELA curriculum 
  • created by teachers, for teachers
  • connected to themes in current events


Teachers or administrators interested in piloting one of these virtual units can find the overview and materials here. If you are interested in this program please sign up here. Please feel free to share these resources with your colleagues and networks.

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Discovering Justice’s Online Gala Honoring Dr. Joshua Boger

COVID-19 did not cancel our annual Gala – we just moved it to October 15 and moved it online. 

Click HERE to attend our Fall 2020 Gala to have the chance to listen and talk about justice online! Gather and participate in a virtual classroom with Discovering Justice staff, board, supporters, and judicial leaders across the Commonwealth. 

Buy a ticket and receive fun gifts to use during the event.

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