As part of a cross-curricular study about the basic functions of the government, fifth grade students are learning about the role of each branch of government and the relationship between local, state, and national government as well as the judicial system. Students will also be reading John Grisham’s “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer,” a book centered around a boy who aspires to be a judge.
Mrs. Bryan’s history classes have been studying the multi-step process of how a bill becomes a law. After learning how the government systems work, students wrote their own bills based on a change or new rule they would like to see implemented on the Lower School campus. Bill proposals included changes to the schedule, new classes, holidays or days off, and nap time. Each class was then divided into the Senate and House of Representative. Small committees first approved the bills within each section. The bills that were approved moved on to the whole House or Senate for approval.
The final approval was given by Head of Lower School Mrs. Horner, who spoke to each class about their approved bills. One bill, written by Zain Majeed ‘26, became a law and was put into action among the fifth grade students. The forward-thinking student saw an opportunity to solve a problem with his proposed bill. The fifth grader proposed that the students could save time by not going back upstairs during the day to get their PE uniforms and store them in the locker room instead. “I was happy my bill went all the way to become a law because kids in my grade liked the idea. They had wanted to put their PE clothes in the locker room and that gave me the idea for the bill,” Zain commented. Students began using the locker room to store their PE clothes as soon as the bill was approved.
The fifth graders then visited the Sarasota County Courthouse. When the group arrived at the courthouse, Sarasota law enforcement officers Sergeant Baker and Deputy Duffy kicked off their visit with the students’ first look at a real courtroom. Getting a glimpse of a holding cell was a sobering image for the fifth graders who (luckily) could not fathom such an experience—when sharing the worst “crimes” they’ve committed, the most serious infractions they could come up with were tales of sneaking candy after bedtime!
The Honorable Judge Walker invited our students into his courtroom and shared his enthusiasm and expertise with the inquisitive group. His passion for law was palpable, and his devotion to the legal system inspired students to consider this career path. Several were overheard on the bus returning to campus asking, “How long do you have to go to school to be a judge?” and “Do you think you have to be a lawyer first or can you just go straight to being a judge?” Judge Walker reviewed the Bill of Rights—a topic that the fifth graders had just reviewed in class—along with fair trial and individual rights, topics that will carry through to the next quarter in history class.
While in the courtroom, students also interacted with several courthouse professionals. Prosecutor Ms. Kate Wallace, public defender Ms. Trish Edwards, and court reporters Mr. Richard Scire and Mr. Michael Scire all became live versions of key characters in the students’ upcoming class book. “Much of the story takes place in the courtroom – a complex setting which my students are unfamiliar with. The students walked right into the main setting of the story on this trip!” said fifth grade reading teacher Mrs. Brittany Hiller. “There is no better way to build background knowledge before embarking on a new literary adventure than literally stepping foot into the setting of the story and interacting with the characters!”
The timing of this unit on government couldn’t be more appropriate as students got to see elections take place this week for the positions they have been learning about in their classrooms.