Category: News

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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Photo/Reba Saldanha  June 17, 2020

Discovering Justice Goes to Summer Camp

What do you do when you are unable to run your summer leadership camps in person? You call Discovering Justice to develop a program to help your campers learn about the legal system and discuss the ideals of justice with legal experts and community leaders.

This summer, Discovering Justice partnered with Crossroads and Camp Harbor View to deliver Discovering Justice in a Pandemic, a program for 8th, 9th, and 11th grade students to explore the balance between individual rights and collective responsibility. Using COVID-19 as a case study. Discovering Justice engaged 200 student campers in the Boston area over the course of July and August. The program provided students with multiple perspectives from guest speakers such as Discovering Justice Board Member Carmen Ortiz from Anderson & Krieger, Gary Katzman, a judge from the U.S. Court of International Trade, Jenny Fernandez from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. Cassandra Pierre a doctor from the Boston Medical Center and public health students from Boston University School of Public Health.

Discovering Justice in a Pandemic provided an opportunity for Discovering Justice to partner with other nonprofits and schools over the coming year about how the legal system provides a vehicle for social change. The organization is exploring sessions on Law and Sports, Law and Social Movements (civil rights, womens’ rights, environmental rights), and America as a protest nation. The program aims to remain topical so students stay informed, educated, and prepared to lead in the face of real issues facing the community.

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Discovering Justice Welcomes it’s First Class of Fellows!

Discovering Justice has hired four Fellows for the organization’s inaugural Fellowship Program. They will be with the organization for ten weeks working directly with staff on program and organizational development projects. Please welcome our first cohort of Discovering Justice Fellows! 

  • Alzeta Wilson, Mock Trial/Topics Fellow (Top Left) – Alzeta works with Senior Education Associate Luke Matys on the Fall Mock Trial Program, developing curriculum, helping to manage our partners, monitoring and evaluating operations, gathering feedback and data, helping to organize the online culminating event, and laying the groundwork for the Spring semester. She will also be doing preliminary research for the Topics Program to help identify potential paths and sources. 

Alzeta lives in Georgia and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Sociology and Demography.

  • Ally Damante, Development/Communications Fellow (Top Center)– Ally works with Executive Director Matt Wilson and Chief Operating Office Ann Gogol to organize Discovering Jutice’s Annual Gala. She is also implementing the organization’s social media and communications plan.

Ally is a recent graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, where she received a B.A. in Arts for Social Change. She is passionate about artistic expression, civic engagement, youth empowerment and previously interned at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

  • Grace Heiderman, Courthouse Tours Fellow (Top Right) – Grace works with Office Administrator Henry Schunk to help create a set of online Courthouse Tours. She will be developing a set of tours focused on different aspects and features of the Courthouse and adapt them for different ages.

Grace has been in Europe taking courses in Museum Studies. She worked for UNESCO to support museums and worked with a NGO to promote tolerance through cultural heritage. 

  • Carolina Hutt-Sierra, Strategic Planning and Development Fellow (Bottom Left) – Carolina works with Executive Director Matt Wilson on the organization’s strategic planning process. She will also be helping to develop and build Discovering Justice’s Foundation outreach and Individual Giving plans.

    Carolina is a recent graduate of Middlebury College where she studied History and Education Studies. She has taught science and social studies to middle and high school students in DC, Vermont, and Maine and is deeply invested in building supportive and inclusive communities both in and out of the classroom. 

Through its Intern Program, Discovering Justice is also hosting Fall Intern from Tufts University

  • Rachael Totz, In-School Program Intern. (Bottom Right) Rachael works with Education Program Director Laura Brenner on Discovering Justice’s In-School program and curricular materials. Rachael is from Houston, Texas and is a senior at Tufts University studying Sociology, Civic Studies, and Philosophy. Rachel is interested in the intersection between education and perceptions of the justice system.
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Mini Mock Trials Coming to Local Elementary Schools

Responding to the need for online civic education programs for elementary students in the coming school year, Discovering Justice has created virtual mini-mock trial units for schools to be piloted in Lowell and Boston this fall. 


The units will be showcased at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Civic Literacy Conference Civic Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions: Building Student Capacity for Civic Engagement which will take place virtually on the evenings of September 23rd and 24th. 

Education Program Director Laura Brenner is working with teachers in Lowell and Boston to develop the curriculum. The units incorporate videos with legal experts, such as state judges Gabrielle Wolohojian and Diana Maldonado to enhance students’ real world connections to the units of study, as well as give elementary school students exposure to possible career paths.

 These interviews, which also include discussions with Linda Walsh (Official Court Reporter at the U.S. Moakley Courthouse), and Jean Shirley (Records and Argument Specialist at the John Adams Courthouse) will deepen students’ understanding of the workings of the judicial system and the many roles within it. 

In this clip, Judge Wolohojian explains to students what happens when there are disagreements and the importance of having discussions with each other.

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Superheroes Among Us

Tapping into the optimism and enthusiasm of students across the Commonwealth, Discovering Justice’s Civic Superhero contest generated more than 100 entries highlighting how youth are engaging in civic education. Students submitted videos and projects which showed their work sewing and donating masks, art projects honoring frontline workers, videos protesting racial injustice, and letters to senators opposing voter suppression in the pandemic.

Check out our social media accounts to see a sample of the submissions.
Mr. William Ruzzo, History teacher at Boston Latin School who engaged his students in the project remarked, “The contest really helped [the History/Civics teachers] cap off the year in a very powerful and meaningful way. The work has already started to have a ripple effect that will lead to positive change for decades to come. [Discovering Justice] has planted the seeds of change that are sustainable.”

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