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OCLRE’s Middle School Mock Trial fastest growing civics program

Many middle schools students are participating in one of the fastest growing civic education programs in Ohio.

"In the beginning it's like 'ahh, what are you going to do,' and then once you get into the trial you get a lot more ease and it's a lot more comfortable,” said Leon Durrenberger, Hastings Middle School Seventh Grader.

Leon is one of more than 300 middle school students across Ohio who traveled to the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center on April 11-12 to act as attorneys and witnesses during the 2013 Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE) Middle School Mock Trial Program.

OCLRE made the novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry into a mock trial. The character in the book is accused of murder when a robbery gets botched. The students started practicing for the mock trial in January.

“We prepared and talked about what was going to happen at the trial ... and we made our cross and direct questions and our opening and closing statements,” Durrenberger said.

OCLRE Executive Director Lisa Eschleman said the students earn points by demonstrating a professional demeanor and good speaking skills, as well as understanding their side’s argument and courtroom procedure.

“What is critically important at the middle school mock trial is that it combines the best of language arts with social studies,” said Eschleman. “It's based on literature that the students are already reading in middle school and then the social studies components, we have taken that literature and turned it into a mock trial case file.”

Eschleman said judges have told her that these students are as polished at some high school groups. She said that is promising for the future of mock trial programs.

"It is really, really fun, and I hope this continues on for a lot of years,” Durrenberger said. “I'm going to do this next year and then I'm going to do the high school one.”

Content courtesy of Court News Ohio.

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