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Mock trial simulates court environment

Accusations fly and students make decisions as to the guilt of their peers. Sound like an average day on a high school campus? Actually, this is the mock trial tradition of Robert Foshee’s senior civics class during November.

Students have taken on roles as attorneys for the prosecution or defense, witnesses, bailiff, defendant and jurors. The Honorable Judge Foshee presides over these events and maintains order in his classroom.

“My role is attorney for the defense,” Chase VanSchoonhoven, ’04, said. “We carry it out like a real court case; we’re able to object just like in a real courtroom. We present evidence and witnesses, and we carry ourselves as real attorneys. It helps us learn about the court system, what they do and how their jobs work. I feel more connected to the class.”

The case in question this year is a grand theft auto charge. Actors were given a briefing sheet on their character’s role and job.

“My job is witness for the prosecution,” Nick Crawford, ’04, said. “Basically my role is to say that at the time I was too drunk to hotwire a car.”

Crawford feels that hands-on experiences are more helpful than notes and lectures. “This experience will stick in our minds because it’s fun,” he said.

Many students agree that the immersion in mock events stimulates the learning experience.

“I like doing hands-on work instead of busywork or tests,” Rachel Jacobsen, ’04, said. “I pay more attention when I’m involved. It’s easier to learn when I’m in the middle of the action instead of just listening to a lecture.”

Jacobsen is right in the middle of the action. Her role is the defendant, Tracy Rose, who is accused of car theft.

Foshee feels strongly about using hands on learning experiences to enhance the classroom experience.

“It always helps to use different modes of learning,” Foshee said. “It solidifies the material in the book. It’s more interesting to see something in person than to hear someone talk about it.”

Civics class stages two mock trials annually. For more information on mock trials nationwide, visit the American Mock Trial Association at www.collegemocktrial.com.

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