Fourth grade students from Rundle Elementary School had an eye-opening experience when they sat through Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Doug Herndon’s actual criminal calendar. The students reacted when the judge sentenced an armed robber to six to 20 years. One students remarked that he hadn’t even been alive that long. Judge Herndon and Judge Linda Bell fielded questions from the kids after the criminal calendar and before the students took on roles of judge, jury, attorneys, witnesses and marshals for a Harry Potter mock trial. Two classes were part of the pilot-program done in coordination with Project REAL. The activities are intended to teach students about the justice system, possible career opportunities and the consequences of criminal activities. A highlight for the kids was a taser demonstration conducted by District Court Marshal Tom Lemke.
Judge Herndon envisioned this mock trial program and wrote the script as a way to provide a fun and interesting way for young students to learn about the justice system. “This program is a good way for young students to see the legal profession in action. When they watch actual court proceedings, they see the unfortunate consequences of criminal activity,” said Judge Herndon. “The mock trials give the students a way to relate to and understand the justice system, and to see career roles that they may want to consider in the future.”
Rundle Elementary is the first Clark County School District school to participate in this mock trial program. “We appreciate the teachers and principal bringing their students to watch a criminal court and participate in a mock trial,” said Judge Bell. “These kids are at the perfect age to learn about the justice system. Giving the students a front-row seat in a real courtroom helps them understand the impact people’s bad decisions have on others and on our community. We also hope to inspire these kids to become the next generation of lawyers and law enforcement professionals.”
To support the lessons in Judge Herndon’s script, Project REAL created three days of presentations and supporting worksheets. Project REAL’s staff then presented the lessons to the students of Rundle Elementary with support from their teachers. These activities prepared students for their Harry Potter experience by teaching them basic law-related vocabulary, trial procedure, and the roles and career opportunities available in the justice system.
Project REAL, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 2005 by Sam Lionel and Irwin Molasky to meet the challenge of teaching K-12th grade Nevada students the importance of the law. They have taught over 160,000 Nevada students about the importance of the law with the goal of preparing them to be informed, law-abiding and participating citizens through their programs Your Day in Court, Play By the Rules, REAL Drama, and Independence & You. More information about Project REAL can be found by visiting http://projectrealnv.org or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.