On Thursday, May 5, 2011, Desert Foothills Middle School in Phoenx had a very special visit. In honor of Law Week, Retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch attended Mr. Hrovat's 8th Grade Civics Class to talk with students about civics education and a new, innovative web site teaching kids about the US Government.
Law Day was started in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower. He believed Americans should have a special time to think about how lucky we are to have a government that must follow the law.
Law Day was celebrated throughout Arizona this year with an activity that came from iCivics.org.
ICivics is a website specially designed to teach how government works in a fun and interactive way. It was created by Justice O’Connor, who is from Arizona. Justice O’Connor created iCivics so kids would have a fun way to learn about government.
Students from across the state have already spent time playing iCivics games.
Those that have played “Branches of Power,” should have no trouble naming the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial. That’s something that more than half of all Americans cannot do. Many think the three branches are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
For those who have played “Executive Command,” now know the President can’t declare war all by himself—yet 40% of Americans think he can.
And for those who have played “Do I Have A Right?” know the Bill of Rights says the government cannot establish a religion. Almost 75% of Americans don’t know the Bill of Rights says that.
These courses help answer the questions, “Why does it matter how the government works? How is this going to help me?”
Civics education teaches young people that part of knowing about government is understanding individual rights. If people know their rights, they can stand up for themselves and for people they care about.
The activity that students undertook for Law Day involved acting out the “Argument Wars” game from iCivics. They played the role of a lawyer and argued a case in front of a judge.
They learned that “arguing a case” doesn’t mean what the name may suggest. When arguing a case in court, there is no yelling or fighting. Instead, it means setting forth a position and using logical reasoning to back it up.
The “judge” in the Law Day exercise was a lawyer or judge from the local community who volunteered to come to the classroom. More than 35 schools across Arizona participated in the program. And more than 75 members of the legal profession— lawyers and judges—volunteered to act as classroom judges.
To learn more about iCivics, visit www.icivics.org