When I was in high school, one of my favorite activities was participating in mock trial tournaments.
Eventually, I chose not to work in law, but in education. Regardless, those mock trial experiences gave me the confidence to speak in front of groups and the tools I needed to develop persuasive messages and arguments.
Two weeks ago, I read an article about a private, Catholic school in Butler, Pennsylvania. The Holy Sepulcher Catholic School is taking the concept of mock trial tournaments to early grades –with great enjoyment for all involved.
Students recently dressed in their best courtroom attire and tried a case about a fictional, Harry Potter-themed cupcake thief. Presiding over the trial was a local judge.
I reached out to Ashley Bauer, the principal of Holy Sepulcher – a school that participates every year in National School Choice Week – to discover how fourth graders got involved in such a fun mock trial event.
“This is the first year for the mock trial activity,” she explained. “One day in class, our students were talking with their teacher about the different branches of government, and the students were very interested in the judicial branch. Our local police officer, who our students know very well, recommended that we do a mock trial and invite a local judge. We turned the mock trial into a play and the students all played different roles.”
Ashley explained to me that the mock trial tournament was just one component in the school’s WIN philosophy: providing each student with the opportunity to discover “What I Need” to feel inspired to learn. In this case, students expressed an interest in the law, and in just days, the mock trial was conceptualized!
“Our teachers are always going out of their way to come up with something a little bigger, something more exciting for the students. They don’t just do worksheets; there’s a lot of hands-on activities,” she said.
Clearly, the WIN philosophy is not just a talking point. It is officially part of the curriculum. For example, “We have each student choose one area of the academic curriculum that they want to ‘dive deeper’ into,” Bauer said. Some students focus on history while others tackle the sciences, reading, math, or robotics.
“Students have 25 minutes each day of the week to work on their area of interest so that they are fully prepared when it comes time to present to their classmates what they have learned,” she said.
To me, these types of activities can help propel students to greater success and confidence – while giving students the time, space, and opportunity they want to pursue subjects that fascinate them.
There’s no doubt that with these opportunities, students are having fun, learning, and are better prepared to WIN at school and in life. Kudos to Ashley and her colleagues for making that happen.