(Left photo) Witness Clarie Robinson from Genoa Middle and Prosecutor Mable Cumming-Vukovic from Walnut Springs Middle practice for the competition as Judge Wilkerson presides. (Right photo) Blendon’s team completes a debrief session, which are conducted to help each team identify its strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Middle school Mock Trial teams came together March 5, 2020, in Westerville City Council Chambers to practice for the upcoming Mock Trial Competition. Eighth graders take on various roles during this activity: attorneys for the prosecution and defense, bailiffs, witnesses, and researchers. Presiding as Judge for these Mock Trial hearings was Westerville North High School English/Language Arts Teacher Zach Wilkerson, who also serves as the school’s Mock Trial advisor.
Advanced eighth grade social studies teachers Tristen Henry (Blendon), Leslie Thompson (Genoa), Patrick Acocks (Heritage), and Liz Stokes (Walnut Springs) lead this extra-curricular program with building support, as well as support from the Gifted Education Department. Special thanks to the Westerville Clerk of Courts office for providing students a more realistic setting in which to prepare. Students will compete at the State Showcase, which is presently scheduled to take place on April 24, 2020, in Columbus at the Supreme Court of Ohio.
According to the Ohio Middle School Mock Trial website, provided by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, teams of teachers and lawyers work together to write Mock Trial cases based on popular literature. Students act as witnesses and attorneys to argue cases involving their favorite characters. Students read and analyze witness statements drawn from the characters in the books. Students then work collaboratively to develop arguments for both sides and develop strategies to question the witnesses. The comprehensive approach includes reading a case summary, trial briefs, and witness statements. The program is ideal for interdisciplinary teaching as it aligns with Ohio’s Learning Standards for social studies and English/language arts.