This semester I am teaching Constitutional Law to our 11th and 12th grade students at Essex Street Academy. In my class, largely driven by independent student work, we are exploring, investigating, and formulating opinions around some of the landmark Supreme Court decisions of the last 70 years or so.
We began the semester with SCOTUS cases that involved schools, students, and the law:
- Tinker v Des Moines ISD (1969)
- New Jersey v TLO (1985)
- Ingraham v Wright (1977)
- Vernonia School District v Acton (1995)
- Grutter v Bollinger (2003)
Since we have shifted our focus to cases that focused on the rights of the accused and racial discrimination and marginalization:
- Gideon v Wainwright (1963)
- Mapp v Ohio (1961)
- Miranda v Arizona (1966)
- Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
- Loving v Virginia (1967)
Much of this material feels relevant to my students and they have shown much interest in the material; however, I want to put my students in the position of someone that deals with the Constitution on a daily basis. So, I am going to attempt to bring the Supreme Court and Constitutional interpretation to my class through a moot court. We will do this in order to try to answer the following question:
How might I create opportunities for students engage in activities you could see outside of a classroom related to Constitutional Law?
My struggle: How can I do this in the most engaging way possible? How do I make this experience authentic and real? What case or cases should we focus on? And finally, how do I use a Moot Court to help my young people answer the question: Have landmark Supreme Court cases created a more just America?
What about using the hot seat activity? This is a method I have used where people get to interview a character from a novel. You could have different people act as experts from the case. They could be interviewed by the entire class. The class would develop their own questions for the experts and the experts would prepare notes for their answers. I have some materials if you are interested but it strikes me as a fun and engaging way to get the class on board with the material before the entire moot court. Just a thought!
I’ve done simulations of interviews by investigative journalists to gauge reading comprehension in my French 3 class. Students got VERY into it, ended up creating costumes and everything. It was a blast and hit on a lot of skills. It feels in the same vein as Jackson’s suggestion, but I think imagining different perspectives is very powerful and fosters empathy. This moot court will also deepen their understanding in a fun way. Let me know when it happens so I can come see!