The Kids' Court at the S.J. Quinney College of Law

Kids' Court is an afterschool program founded by the 2008 — 2009 Minority Law Caucus Board at the S.J. College of Law at the University of Utah. Essentially, law student volunteers teach 5th and 6th grade students from under-served populations in Salt Lake City about the law and civic engagement through a weekly afterschool program.

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The Kids' Court Blog ↓

The Real Story of the Big Bad Wolf

Kids’ Court 2011-2012 is coming to a close.  There are several more lessons before the Kids’ Court Graduation, including a final mock trial.  In order to prepare the students for the final production, the students needed to try out for roles and show the law student volunteers that they could be dramatic and act.  As a group, we came up with motions to demonstrate key words from the story of the Three Little Pigs.  The students were told to conduct the action whenever it was read aloud from the story.  Since this is Kids’ Court, and we’re learning about the law and the legal profession, we added a legal spin!  The students were read to versions of the Three Little Pigs: the Pigs’ side and the Wolf’s side.   The students learned that the Pigs had brought suit against the Wolf for destroying their homes.  As we read through each side of the stories, the students acted out the words, as well as learned the facts to support each party of the lawsuit.  After the stories were finished, the students were asked to write opening statements for the prosecution and the defense.  Since this was practice for our final trial, the students presented their opening statements in front of their classmates.

The students had a great time acting out the motions for the Three Little Pigs.  But they loved to prepare and present their own argument to support either the Pigs or the Wolf.  Anyone can be an actor, but it takes something special to be a lawyer.  I think I have a lot of little lawyers at both Rose Park and Parley’s Park!


Creative Writing versus Legal Writing Lesson

As we get closer to the end of the year mock trial, the lessons are beginning to focus on what it is like to be a real lawyer.  This lesson helped to teach the students that there is a difference between the writing style they have learned in school and legal writing.  As a law student, I have to admit that learning how to make a legal argument was one of the most difficult aspects of my first year, so I knew that this was not going to be an easy lesson.  But as always, the students took me by surprise and understood the concept in no time!

I created a simple formula using addition and to make a legal argument.  In a worksheet with 4 boxes, the students compiled different pieces of their legal argument in each box and solved the equation to create their legal argument.  I created scenarios based on the Kids’ Court Constitution to make the legal aspect applicable to the students.  The scenarios  showed a past student of Kids’ Court breaking all of the laws that we created to keep our community running smoothly.  The students made the argument that the student should go to the principle using the law from the Kids’ Court Constitution and the facts from the scenarios.  I was so excited that the students understood the process and all created great legal arguments.  This was a great lesson!


Immigration Lesson with Pinata Art Project

The immigration lesson is an important lesson because the some of the students have been affected directly by immigration.  This lesson often evokes strong emotions in the students who have seen family members sent back to Mexico or have heard stories about loved ones being lost as a result of political conflict in their country of origin.  The goal of this lesson was to teach the students that there have been periods of time in American history when the country considered immigration a benefit, and other periods of time when there has been extreme xenophobia.  By explaining the different waves of immigration beginning in the late 18th century to today, the students began to see the ways that politics and economics affect the country’s view on immigration.  The teachers were open to have side conversations with individual students if they had questions or wanted to discuss their own stories.

We wanted to end the lesson with an art project to bring the students together and encourage creativity so we decided to make mini-pinatas.  The project was relatively simple, but was much more time consuming than I had anticipated.  I would recommend saving at least 45 minutes to an hour for this project; but it was worth it!

Easy-to-Make Piñatas


• hole punch
• brown lunch sacks
• scissors
• brightly colored tissue paper (Try to use a variety of colors.)
• heavy yarn or string
• glue
• ruler
• candy or small prizes


Cut the tissue paper into 4″ (10 cm) strips. (If you place several sheets of tissue one
on top of the other and fold in half twice, you can cut more strips at a time.  Use a sturdy pair of scissors.) Next, fringe the tissue strips by making many cuts along the edge of the strips.  Be sure to leave a 1″ (2.54 cm) uncut edge at the top of the strips.

Glue a tissue strip around the outside of paper bag, starting at the bottom of one side of the bag and continuing around each side until you meet the place where you began.  Cut the tissue and start a new layer.  Position the next strip so the fringe hangs down and covers the glued area of the first layer.  Glue this next strip around the bag as you did the first.  Continue adding each layer until you reach the top of the bag.

Use the hole punch to punch holes about 2″ (5 cm) apart around the top of the bag.  Weave the yarn or string through the holes, as shown in the picture.  Next, fill the piñata with candy or prizes, pull the string or yarn so the bag is closed tightly, and secure it with a knot.

Glue colorful streamers to the bottom of the bag for a more festive look!  Hang your piñata in a place where you can play the piñata game.  Blindfold the players and have each, in turn, hit the piñata with a yardstick or rolled up newspaper until it is broken and all the goodies fall out.  Enjoy!


Alternative Conflict Resolution and Public Speaking Skills

This post covers Kids’ Court sessions from the past two weeks.  These sessions were both about the art of communication and the role that communication plays in a lawyer’s life.  In several weeks, Kids’ Court will conduct a second mock trial in which the students will have an active role in creating some aspects.  Thus, it was important for the students to learn how to present a speech with confidence and skill.  However, an integral part of being a good speaker is being a good listener and therefore we started these lessons with learning about Alternative Conflict Resolution.

The first exercise was the Bitten Dog/Beaten Dog scenario in which students were put in pairs and each was given information about the same conflict.  However, the students were on opposite sides of the conflict and were instructed to talk at the other student–preventing communication.  The classroom got very loud and no one could hear anything but a general rumble.  Following that exercise, we had a discussion about communication and how the students resolve conflict in their lives.  Next, I explained the different methods that lawyers use to resolve conflict.  These included: Mediation, Arbitration, Litigation, Communication, and Legislation.  The students were given a vocabulary sheet and a scenarios worksheet to help reinforce the definitions.

The second week of this series began with a Mock Mediation.  I chose two students to prepare a mediation based on the Bitten Dog/Beaten Dog scenario from the previous week.  I asked the students to write down the steps to a mediation before the demonstration so they could follow along and prepare to be the mediator in the next exercise.  The “guinea pig” students did a great job in front of the class and everyone was excited to try to be the mediator.  This exercise was really fun and all of the students had a great time!

Next we shifted gears and discussed the importance of public speaking.  The law student volunteers performed a Public Speaking Rap (see below).


Public speaking, don’t be freaking
Just listen to the RRR technique in… (×3)
Public speaking, don’t be freaking
Just listen to the RRR technique in public speaking

Verse I
Have you ever seen a hip hop show
Where the emcee’s completely locked into the flow?
His words are clear, his voice is loud
And she really knows how to interact with the crowd
In public speaking you need the same types of things
It’s important to keep the audience engaged
So use eye contact, make sure you look around
Don’t just stare at the page or the sky or the ground

Keep a steady pace, make sure you don’t rush
Project your voice, don’t let it be hushed
‘Cause you could have some great points to convey
But they mean nothing if we can’t hear what you say
Humor is a great way to break the ice
And to emphasize your points, hand gestures are nice
And you can make your talk stronger with visual aids
Like a PowerPoint®, photo, or a graph that you made


Verse II
Public speaking’s easier when you feel refreshed
So the night before, make sure you get plenty of rest
And it’s always critical that you know your audience
When it comes to this, just use some common sense
If you’re talking to a panel for college admissions
Use vocab. that shows intellect and ambition
But if you’re talking is a group of third graders instead
All those big words would go over their heads

Be sure to use voice inflection when you speak
‘Cause if you talk in monotone you’ll put the people to sleep
And the best way to master all of these tactics?
Practice, practice, practice!
Practice with your family, practice in front of a mirror
Practice so that every word is clearer
Practice builds confidence and makes you less nervous



Following the rap, we played the “A, B, C Game.”  This game is a public speaking lesson in disguise.  The students were asked to incorporate the do’s and don’ts that they learned through the Public Speaking Rap, and recite the “A, B, C’s” as if it was a speech.  The students had so much fun with this exercise!  Many of them added questions and pauses as they recited the “A. B, C’s” through their intonation.  Some of the students got into character and recited emotionally stirring “A, B, C’s” as a Call to Action for some unknown cause.  All of the students made eye-contact with their classmates and paced around the room to keep their audience engaged.

Lastly, there was a Kids’ Court debate!  The students were split into two teams and asked to send one teammate from each team to the front of the class.  The individuals were given a topic, such as, “Recess should be extended to three hours per day,” and asked to debate the pro’s and con’s.  The teachers chose which side of the issue that the students had to argue for and this forced the students to think on their feet and create a well-spoken argument regardless of their personal point of view.  This was difficult for some of the students, but they asked their teammates for ideas and worked together to create the best argument.  The students enjoyed the debate and because we ran out of time, I think we’ll try to have another debate in the coming weeks.


Kids’ Court Public Service Announcements

This week we followed up on the previous lesson’s emphasis on Civic Participation and the importance of voting and the students were asked to think about what they would change in their communities and the United States if they were elected president.  After we brainstormed as a group, I asked the students to create a collage Public Service Announcement to present their platform for change.  I gave the students a few examples of collages that I had made, including one entitled: No More Hunger.  This collage had pictures of families and a bowl of spaghetti and sparked a conversation about homelessness and people who cannot afford food in our community.  The students were really excited to begin work on their own Public Service Announcements and came up with some incredibly moving pictures.


Evelyn created a PSA to campaign that all people help each other.

Evelyn Q's "Help People PSA"


Alejandro created his campaign platform on the importance of exercise.  He found plenty of pictures that he liked, so created a double-sided PSA.

Alejandro's "Exercise is Cool" PSA: part one

Alejandro's "Exercise is Cool" PSA: part two


Roxanna’s campaign was to guarantee equal pay for all people.

Roxanna's "Equal Pay for All People" PSA


Evelyn wants all people to learn to eat healthfully.  Her campaign platform was to encourage eating the fruits and vegetables instead of burgers and chili cheese fries.

Evelyn's "Eat Healthy" PSA


Alejandro B and I had a long discussion on bullying when he was discussing his idea for a campaign platform PSA.  Alejandro is a shy student who vowed to make sure no one gets bullied in his presence.  There is text in pencil underneath the glued on words: “No Bully” and it reads: “I want no Bullying because bullys will hurt studints.  Thats what I think no bullying in school or outside or at home.”

Alejandro A's "No Bullying" PSA


Lastly, the whole class got together to create a “No Deportation” PSA.  Several students were gravitating towards this theme, but none of them felt comfortable creating it by themselves.  Together, our community talked about some of the sad experiences of the students and their families who have been personally affected by deportation.  The images and words that the students compiled were very powerful and our discussion was one I will never forget.

Kids' Court Community "No Deportation" PSA



Civic Responsibility and Elections

This week the students learned about civic responsibility and the importance of voting.  The students loved this lesson!  The lesson was split into three parts.  The first part was a lesson to convey the importance of participating in one’s community and the chaos that ensues when no one participates.  The students arrived to their classroom and found the tables overturned and the chairs thrown across the floor:

The students were told to “have a seat” without much more direction.  Some of the students turned over the chairs and sat down, while others sat on the floor near the chairs or even tried to sit on the bottom of the tables.  We told the students to throw their trash on the floor and that the lesson was going to be writing for one full hour about the Constitution.  The students were told they could not speak or ask questions and if they did they would be sent to the principal’s office!  Needless to say, the students sat quietly, albeit confused, and began to write.  (They are such good students!)  After a few minutes we stopped the unhappy and confused writers and began to discuss what had occurred in our Kids’ Court community.  The students understood the benefit of being able to participate and agreed that they could have improved our community by picking up the tables and trash.  We asked the students what we could have done to improve the community and they all agreed that we should have answered their questions about the room and helped to clean up too.

After a short discussion of ways the students thought they could participate in their community, we began a conversation about voting.  The students were asked if they could define words such as,  “Platform,” “Parties,” “Debate,” “Booth,” “Ballot,” and several more.  They had some great ideas and eventually we worked together to define all of the words.  Once the students understood the process of an election, the law student teachers stood up to run for the position of Kids’ Court President!  One of the teachers taught the students to applaud what they liked in each candidate’s platform and be silent for what they didn’t like.  My favorite part of this process was when one of the candidates explained that his goal was that all of the students in Kids’ Court would go to college and so he was going to ask them to do more writing — every student applauded with such excitement because they want to go to college too!  It was such a great moment.

The catch for the election was that only one person was “allowed” to vote.  The students realized immediately that this was unfair and that they all should be allowed to vote (even though they aren’t 18, the students felt that by 8 years old, people should be able to vote!) .  The student who voted considered the candidates very carefully and she took into consideration what each candidate was going to do to improve the Kids’ Court community.  Her one vote was well spent and the best candidate won.  After seeing the law student teachers go through the election process, the students are excited to have an election of their own.  Next week, we are going to help the students create platforms and campaign to ultimately have an election of their own.

The final portion of the lesson was a word scramble of all of the vocabulary words we had discussed about elections.  The students worked together and were able to figure out all of the words.  It is so wonderful to see how bright and engaged the students are.  This lesson was so much fun for both the students and the teachers!

Welcome Back! Kids’ Court Spring 2012

Hello and welcome back!

Kids’ Court is back at it and we are beginning our lessons for Spring 2012.  We have many exciting things planned for this Spring such as a field trip to Matheson Courthouse, a lawsuit against a teacher (or their student coordinator– an idea from one of our Park City students), and much more!  This week the lesson consisted of a review of the Foundations Unit in the form of the game show Jeopardy!  Many of the students had not heard of the game show, so it was wonderful to watch them excel as they answered the questions in standard Jeopardy fashion.  The students were very excited to be back in Kids’ Court after a few weeks off and they are looking forward to another semester of fun.  We asked the students to write a paragraph about their experience last semester with Kids’ Court and I will update the blog with some of those creative answers very soon.

Thanks for checking in with Kids’ Court!  Here’s to another incredible semester with some of the smartest and brightest 4th, 5th and 6th graders I know!



Kids’ Court Holiday Party!

Since we reached the end of the Foundations Unit, all we had left to do for this semester’s Kids’ Court was have a party!  This week at Kids’ Court the students’ semester of hard work was celebrated by cake and games.  The students at Rose Park really enjoy playing Simon Says so there was plenty of that, but we introduced another game to them: the Banana Olympics!  Much like a relay race, the Banana Olympics have relays that all include a team banana.  The students were split into teams of 8 and had to complete the Banana Toss (throwing the banana back and forth across the room), the Banana Shuffle (shuffling across the room with the banana held between the knees); the Banana Balance (walking across the room as fast as possible with the banana balanced on your head) among other events.  The students had a great time at the Banana Olympics, eating cake and having a party with their friends and the law student teachers.  What a great party to end the semester!

Banana Olympics -- the Banana Balance!

Cake time!

Got milk? Or is that a milk mustache?

Me and the students after we had our fill of cake

Happy Thanksgiving from Kids’ Court!

Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to reflect on the joy and many blessings in one’s life and express those thoughts of gratitude to those for which we are grateful.  I am thankful for the students in Kids’ Court who have affected me profoundly with their excitement for life and learning.  The students’ joy is infectious and one cannot help but leave a lesson feeling enthusiastic about the goals of our project and the future of our country.  I am thankful to the partners who are the heart of this project and lead with passion and a vision of a better world.  I am thankful for Kids’ Court.  BG


Some other thoughts of gratitude for Kids’ Court:

“Kids’ Court is the most enjoyable Pro Bono volunteer opportunity available at S.J. Quinney College of Law.  Prior to Kid’s Court, I did not think I was good with kids. However, Kids’ Court has softened me up. And for this I am grateful.” — Michelle, Law Student


“I’m thankful for the ability to teach kids stuff I’m learned.  It’s not everyday that I get to feel like everything I learn in law school is useful but showing kids they have the ability to be an active participant in the government is really encouraging as a law school – that all of education isn’t being done in vain.” — Shehnoor, Law Student


“Kids Court is an amazing opportunity to help shape the lives of the younger generation.  I have gained so much from my time with the children, teaching them about our Constitution and the court system.  Once a week, I get to forget all about the pressures of law school and recall why I decided to become an attorney, to help others!” — Karina, Law Student


“I am thankful for Kids’ Court because, I have the chance to work with a program that empowers as much as it instructs, emboldened by a mission that inspires service, particularly to the most vulnerable.  I have the chance to work with amazing, dedicated, caring, and courageous individuals who are committed to the future of our community and our state.  The truth is, it is just plain fun.”– Dr. Theresa Martinez, Founding Partner


“I am grateful for the renewed, continuing, and developing relationships of Kids’ Court, all of which are working for common goals of respect, education, and service.  I am thankful for the abiding love for the rule of law and hope in civic engagement that we share, teach, and practice in our Kids’ Court efforts.  I appreciate the opportunity to be part of a program, like Kids’ Court, which inspires the best parts of who we are to be like the children we teach – passionate, curious, interested, and hopeful.” –Michelle Oldroyd, Founding Partner


“I’m thankful for people who care enough to get involved.  I’m thankful for the infectious energy of youth.  I am thankful for green chile chicken enchiladas.” –Reyes Aguilar, Founding Partner




Park City Mock Trial

Last week marked the end of our Foundations Unit at both Park City and Rose Park Kids’ Courts!  The mock trial is the capstone of the Foundations Unit because the students are required to incorporate all of the knowledge they have learned about the court system while having a great time playing the roles of a judge, lawyer, defendant or plaintiff!  The trial is based on the children’s story of Goldy Locks and the Three Bears and Gold E. Locks is being sued for bad manners.  The students are given scripts and read aloud with one another as the lawyers examine Gold E. Locks and her mother, as well as each one of the three bears: Mom A. Bear, Pop A. Bear and Babe E. Bear.  We have several props for the students that they admit into evidence such as a bowl of porridge and a pillow covered in yellow hair.  This lesson is so much fun for both the students and the law student teachers who get to watch the scene.  We end the lesson without a script for the verdict– the students must use the evidence presented by both sides to come to a unanimous decision about Goldy’s guilt.  The students at Park City were divided, but ultimately found Gold E. guilty of bad manners.  Her sentence?  Making porridge for the bears for the next three years!

The Honorable Jazmin

Mom A. Bear Under Oath

Gold E. Locks Swearing-In

Counsel for the Locks' (the defendants)

Pop A. Bear Takes the Stand

The Jury Considers the Facts


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