Our Constitutional Right to Due Process

7th Grade Social Studies centers around an essential question: How has the United States both lived up to and fallen short of its founding ideals. As students are now studying the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, they are beginning to learn ways that constitutional rights have been shaped and challenged over time. They are also learning about periods in our history when large groups of people were routinely denied their rights.

This year’s mock trial will – for the first time – focus on the denial of constitutional rights: to a fair trial and right to counsel (in the 5th and 6th Amendments). It was inspired by the work of Bryan Stevenson, whose book Just Mercy is a compelling account of the ways racial bias and flawed prosecutorial practices have impacted and continue to infect our justice system. The mock trial case won’t directly address his findings, but will afford an opportunity to discuss who in U.S. society tends to be disadvantaged in the legal system.

Each 7th grade student will take on the role of a lawyer or a witness, as they experience “Law School” from December 4 – 14th. I’ve heard from some parents who are willing to generously donate their time and talents to help coach these engaged and engaging future attorneys!!! If you know anyone who might want to join our efforts (which could just be one 2 and ½ hour session in the morning or afternoon), please contact me at wewbank@seattlegirlsschool.org!

One skill emphasized in the 7th grade curriculum is the ability to see multiple perspectives on a topic. Preparing a legal case necessitates really understanding both sides of the dispute. Research shows that perspective-taking exercises enhance young people’s tolerance of political views different from their own. Other goals of this experience are to increase students’ awareness of the importance of law in a democratic society and to provide a hands-on experience in a real courtroom setting with real life judges. Here they will apply their knowledge of law, society, and themselves. They’ll gain confidence and poise in a true “stand and deliver” performance.

Remember that this year’s trial will be December 14, 4 – 6:30 at the King County Courthouse (516 Third Avenue). Here, you’ll even have the opportunity to serve on the jury if you like!

Mock Trial CulminationSGS Yearbook page Mock Trial

Facebook for the Gods

In Language Arts, we have begun to work toward completing the Greek Mythology unit, which concludes with a deity research project.  Students have been researching all aspects of a deity they received by the luck of the draw, becoming experts on everything from the deity’s domain, primary symbols, important relationships, and major stories.  This week, they used their knowledge to create faux-Facebook pages, a platform that is perfect for highlighting the dramatic leanings of the gods.

Draft of Sylvia's Aphrodite Profile Page

Draft of Sylvia’s Aphrodite Profile Page

Lauren's Hades News Feed

Draft of Lauren’s Hades News Feed

In addition to this task, students will create presentations for the class that utilizes slides and a creative writing or artistic endeavor displaying the depth of the research they compiled.  Not only will the above information be shared, but students will also provide details on their deities’ Roman equivalent and a counterpart from another culture.

While students began this work with me, the unit will come to fruition with my substitute, Alison Behnke, who will cover for me while I am in Honduras completing a poetry fellowship.

Alison Behnke is extremely excited to be at Seattle Girls School for the month of November. She loves middle schoolers and has been curious about S.G.S. ever since her son bumped into the school goat on the play structure at Flo Ware park. Alison was born and raised in Seattle. She attended college in Vermont and then hightailed it back to the west coast. She taught at Mercer International Middle School on Beacon Hill for 6 years. When her second son was born, she stepped out of the classroom and spent a couple years writing news stories for young adults. Last year she started substitute teaching in independent schools. Alison’s only complaint is that she isn’t starting her month-long stint at S.G. S. until after Halloween. It’s one of her favorite holidays. Alison once dressed up as a Dick’s milkshake for Halloween. Her partner was a side of french fries. This year her sons, 5-year-old Weston and 3-year-old Calder, wanted to be hawks and requested that their parents be the prey. Alison obeyed and dressed up as a bunny.