From AAPSNews Service
David Baum returned to Tappan Middle School this spring with an eye to teaching students about the law.
The University of Michigan Law School assistant dean of students donned his robes to preside over a trial with sixth-graders at Tappan Middle School. A former Tappan parent, Baum served as part judge, part teacher as he guided them through the trial process.
“Do you want to ask that?” he queried one student prosecutor during a direct examination. “Maybe word it more clearly to lead up to that point? You’re trying to get him to say what he saw when the gun hit.”
The novel “Tuck Everlasting” was the basis for the series of mock trials at Tappan, where the story’s matriarch, Mae Tuck, is put on trial for killing the “man in the yellow suit” who was on the heels of discovering the Tuck family secret of immortality in an effort to sell it for profit.
In the 1975 classic by Natalie Babbitt, which takes place in upstate New York in the 1880s, Winnie Foster stumbles upon Jesse Tuck and his family, who have been drinking from a spring that keeps the family immortal. The Tucks spirit Winnie away and share their secret with her. When the “man with the yellow suit” follows, he is struck over the head by Mae Tuck, who was protecting her family, and he subsequently dies.
Student witnesses included various characters from the book, a weapons specialist and physician, among others. Students played all of the parts from attorneys to jurors and observers of the trial.
Language Arts teacher Wendy Raymond brought the experience to her classroom. She does four, or more, student mock trials each year. She decided to use “Tuck Everlasting” for her sixth-graders thinking it would be a good fit.
“I’ve was reading this book and thinking ‘is she (Mae Tuck) a murderer or a hero?’” Raymond said.
Raymond said she has had an interest in the law since her dad, also a teacher, used to take the family to watch trials. “I’ve had other teachers ask about it. If we can collaborate, I’m hoping next year we can get more kids involved,” she said.
This year, Raymond also started a Tappan Law Club, an extracurricular activity that brings real-life courtroom experience to middle school students.
On a related note, she was recently honored to receive the Law Related Education Middle School Teacher of the Year Award from the American Lawyers’ Auxiliary of the American Bar Association. She will receive her award this summer in San Francisco.
Mary Ann Farris, chairwoman of Michigan Law Day Essay Contest sponsored by the Michigan Lawyers Auxiliary, said Raymond’s dedication is laudable and she was pleased to see her win the national honor.
“She has always entered our essay contest and she always has winners,” said Farris, a former teacher herself. “To introduce Supreme Court cases to students and let them know the value of the cases in their lives is important. She does a superb job.”
Farris said she would like to see more teachers take part in adding legal education to the schools so that students “can become more aware of our laws … and how the laws affect them.”
In her role, Raymond has maintained the Washtenaw County Law Related Education Lawyer & Teacher Partnership since 1994 and has also done a variety of presentations about law education in the classrooms and to local groups. She also arranges student field trips on legal issues, facilitates topical discussions between her students and U-M law students and arranges presentations by local attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials to students.
In addition to “Tuck Everlasting,” Raymond also uses “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton and “Max and the Mighty” by Rodman Philbrick as the basis for mock trials she does at Tappan each year.
She also co-facilitates student participation as witnesses and jurors in college-level mock trials at the Washtenaw County District Court through U-M, Wayne State University and Washtenaw Community College with the help of Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Timothy Connors. Local attorneys Gregory Dodd and Lori Buiteweg have also supported the program.
Raymond said anyone interested in further information about law-related education or establishing a lawyer-teacher partnership may contact her at Raymond@aaps.k12.mi.us.
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