I have the distinct privilege to work in a middle school — a true middle school that values teacher teams. In my school we have a class called ISB (Interdisciplinary Solutions Block). In this class, a team of four teachers (math, science, social studies, and language arts) work collaboratively to design real-world projects that encompass all four subject areas.
For the past 6 weeks, our two 8th grade teams have been working on a PBL project — Moot Court. It is a project that stems from We the People in which students participate in a simulated courtroom trial.
The project started when our Social Studies teachers wrote up three fictional court cases involving student rights. Each of the core area teachers took a class of about 27 students to guide through this process. Within that group of 27, students designed 6 strong groups of four (easier said than done) and learned a little bit about each case. They then decided which case they wanted to debate and whether they wanted to defend the student or the school.
Students researched Constitutional law and precedent court cases to develop their arguments that would later be presented to a panel of judges (a combination of parents, law students, law professors, professional lawyers, and judges). They generated their arguments and turned them into speeches that they would present as a legal team. They wrote and re-wrote their arguments (because their teachers weren’t satisfied with their first drafts). 🙂
Six weeks and a thousand re-writes and rehearsals later, students were ready for presentation day at Indiana Tech Law School.
This was our first year presenting at Indiana Tech Law School, and the results speak for themselves. Sometimes, in order to see what a student’s true abilities are, you must offer them opportunities to share their knowledge with people OTHER THAN their teachers — it offers authenticity to a project.
This project was no exception. Knowing they would be presenting to professional judges and lawyers who knew the Constitution and precedent cases prompted the students to put their best foot forward.
Our students stood when the judges entered the room, they shook hands, they spoke with courtroom lingo, and truly demonstrated Constitutional knowledge.
I was granted opportunities to build bonds with the students as they looked to me for guidance, advice, and positive affirmations of a job well done. These are my proudest and most cherished moments as a teacher. Neither they nor I will ever forget this opportunity.
I hope you have a chance to take your students out of the building and teach them in the environment that best fits the purpose.