Written by Thomas L. McFarland






The student will appreciate and explain the basic rights of a citizen in a community.

The student will understand and appreciate how the local law enforcement and court system functions.

The student will be able to apply his/her understanding and knowledge of the law enforcement and court system when confronted with a realistic community situation.





Basic law enforcement and judicial knowledge for young children is a necessity if students are to understand how citizens in a community function together. Each member in a community has rights and responsibilities to themselves as well as to others in the community. Every citizen has basic rights provided by the constitution of the United States. These rights were added into the constitution as the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Each person has the right to Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures and many more. Students should understand that with all of these freedoms that are given to the citizens of a community come the responsibilities of making sure these rights are protected. This responsibility is supported by the community and given to the judicial system. As members of a community the students have the responsibility to help uphold the laws that are enacted for the safety and concern for all citizens.

Every community has officials who are elected, appointed and or hired to facilitate the process of ensuring that the rights of citizens are not taken away. These officials can only perform their function with the support of the community as a whole. Instruction about the rights of citizens, the law enforcement personnel, and the judicial system will help students to understand the necessity of working together as members of a community. In a publication presented by Robin McBee (1996, p. 38), the author believes that, "Law related education enables young students to begin to develop the democratic citizens' ability to engage in civil public discourse amidst legitimately diverse claims and interests."

Teaching community rights and responsibilities in a classroom can be a successful blueprint for a citizen living in the future. Children who are involved in the fundamental process of building and enforcing the rights and regulations of a classroom, can soon learn that when a right is given then a certain responsibility accompanies it. Human rights can be taught in a classroom but until the student feels that it pertains to him/her the concept will not be understood.

Students should understand that people accused of a crime have legal rights also. These legal rights protect the accused person from being unfairly treated by other individuals. Some of these rights are: (a) suspect cannot be held without a hearing, (b) to be represented by a lawyer, (c) a speedy and public trial, (d) trial by an impartial jury, (e) to hear and question opposing witnesses, (f) to subpoena their own witnesses, and (g) equal protection of the laws.

American citizens have a number of responsibilities that they need to fulfill when ask by the judicial system. A few of these are: (a) serving on a jury, (b) cooperating with police and other enforcement officials, (c) testifying as a witness in court when required, (d) telling the truth when ask, and (e) respecting and protecting the rights of others.

This unit is designed to give the learners a realistic active participation in the process of the justice system. The learners will be involved in a role play of students stealing money from other students, the apprehension of the perpetrators, and the process of the judicial system.

Along with the role play the students will hear from a police officer, a lawyer, and a court official who will describe their duties in the justice system. The students will be expected to do research on the rights of citizens, duties of law enforcement and court personnel, the functions of a court system, and the necessity of following the local community laws. Suggested vocabulary words that the children may become familiar with are as follows: (a) laws, (b) lawyers, (c) judges, (d) attorneys, (e) bailiff, (f) court recorder, (g) jury, (h) witness, (i) line up, (j) victim, (k) police officers, (l) courthouse, (m) courtroom, (n) detective, (o) trial, (p) evidence, and (q) verdict.

Activity one is designed to introduce the concept that citizens have basic rights and responsibilities both to themselves and others in the community. Without any advance notice the students will witness a fake robbery of a student from their own classroom. Following the fabricated robbery and a half hearted attempt to catch the robbers the students will have time to consider what should be done. Students will be ask to discuss and think about what actually happened, what they think should happen next, what rights of a citizen have been violated, and what responsibilities they have as witnesses to a crime.

Activity two is a visit by a police officer to discuss with the students his/her functions and obligations to each member of the community. The students will be ask to prepare for the visit by listing questions pertinent to the previous activity. They can discuss with the officer about what happened in the first activity and then find out what the officer suggests that the students do (e.g., record down all of the facts, interview the witnesses).

Activity three will start with a police detective coming to the class and discussing with the children what his/her job is in the community. The children will present the information they compiled from activity two to the detective and ask questions on how they can go about catching the robbers. Other questions can be asked such as (a) How does an officer obtain search warrants? (b) What can and can't a detective do in a search? and (c) What does a detective do with the robbers when they find them?

Activity four is a field trip to a courtroom. Here the children will at least see what a courtroom looks like and where the people they have been learning about do their jobs. If good planning has taken place the children can view a court in session. A short discussion with a judge about how and what they do would help the children finish the role play. The judge can discuss with them what has happened up to this point in the role play and then instruct them on how to handle the remaining activities.

Activity five is the student's preparation day for the courtroom appearance of the robbers. Here they will be asked to prepare their cases for both the victim and the robbers.

Activity six is the final day of the role play. Here the students will present their case in court, call and question witnesses, present evidence, and await for the jury to render a verdict.

Key ideas to be developed and emphasized are: (a) the rights and responsibilities of citizens, (b) duties of law enforcement personnel, (c) the functions of the judicial system, (d) the rights of the accused person in a crime, (e) the procedures that a citizen follows when the rights of a person have been violated, and (f) the responsibilities of citizens in a community to each other.

The end of the unit can be concluded with the children presenting a mock trial about Gold E. Locks and the three bears to their parents and other classmates. Having the children work on this play during free time, theatrical art time, or at home will help to reinforce the terminology and functions of the judicial system during the units' activities as well as to increase the children's interest.

Remember the goal of this unit is not to have a perfect role play but to have an experience that the children will enjoy, participate in, understand the rights of a citizen in a community, and appreciate and know how the law enforcement and court system functions. Promoting discussion, allowing for questions, cooperative research, and complete participation by all are needed ingredients in this unit.

The following are children's books that could be read during literature and free reading time: (a) Encyclopedia Brown Takes The Case (1966), and (b) Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1973).



Materials and pre-planning necessities


1. Find a local police officer and a detective who are willing to come into your class and describe what they do in their official capacity. Locate a judge who will visit with your class in a courtroom at the local courthouse. This is not so hard if one will only ask and be willing to work around a judge's schedule. Be sure to tell them about the role play the children are doing in the classroom and have them suggest what things the students might be doing in researching the crime and in the preparation for the court proceedings. A long presentation from an individual is not necessary. The judge can ask the students questions about what has happened and what the kids are doing to solve the problem. The judge can make suggestions, answer questions, and most importantly discuss with the students in an informal atmosphere the duties and responsibilities of a judge.

2. Discuss what the class is doing with another teacher and acquire his/her help in facilitating the role play. The role play will need at least two students who are willing to dress up in Levi's and a white shirt, have masks over their heads and come into a class and rob a student of his/her lunch money. This cooperating teacher's class will also have to have two more students who are willing to wear Levi's and a white shirt on the day of the robbery in order to divert suspicion. It may be fun to have the whole class wear Levi's and a white shirt.

3. A nearby class will also be needed to supply a select group of jurors who are willing to sit in judgment of the accused students.

4. A student from the original class will be needed to participate in the robbery as the victim. He or she should be aware of what is going to happen and be prepared to give up the money, make a scene, and come running to the teacher. It is not necessary for this person to know who is doing the robbery.

5. A video camera can be used to film the robbery. The children should be familiar with having the camera in the class and not know that it is on and filming during the robbery. If it will cause a stir, do not use it or the children will know something is about to happen. The reason for the camera is to compare notes of what the children said happened and what really happened.

6. Be prepared to accept change, modification, and enjoyment throughout this unit.

The goals of this unit are correlated to segments of the strands 5, 6, and 10 of the NCSS, Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.










Lesson Goals


To stimulate the students' interest in the judicial system.

To build on the students' understanding of the rights of a citizen in a community environment.

To help the student develop a method of solving problems in a community when a person's rights have been violated.

To help students realize that in order to protect ones' rights they must also expect to have responsibilities for themselves and for others.


Description of the Activity


As the children are working quietly on a project have a victim stand near the door to the classroom. Have the robbers come into the class, surround the victim, and say out loud, "Give me your lunch money!" Make sure it is loud enough for the class to hear and turn around. The robbers can push the victim up against the wall. (Gently) The victim should shout, "NO." Then the robbers can say, "If you don't we will beat you up after school." The victim then hands over the lunch money, starts to cry, and the robbers run out of the class. The victim then runs up to the teacher and explains what has happened.

Here the teacher can ask the class what should be done. Of course they will say go and find the robbers. The teacher can run out the door of the class, look around for a minute and come back in and say that no one was found. At this point start a discussion with the children on what they think should be done. Questions such as the following can be used.

1. What are the rights and responsibilities of each of the students in the classroom?

2. Even though you were not involved in the crime can and should you help? How?

As time progresses have them consider what they would do if this happened in their community. What steps would they follow? Who would they contact? Why? What would these people do? What obligations would the students have? What would be expected of them? What would be expected of the victim? How would the police solve the problem? What are the rights of the victim? Before they accuse people of something what must they have?

Now divide the students into small groups and have them discuss and list down on a large chart what they think should happen. How they would solve the problem. How they will make sure all of the student's rights are protected. Tell them that they are the ones who will have to solve the robbery. They will become the detectives and the police officers. Each group will have to come up with a plan to apprehend the robbers. Remind them that their plan must protect the rights of the victim as well as the accused robbers.

Following the activity make sure the students' charts are posted around the room for reference in the unit if needed. This would be a good time to introduce the play, "STATE VS. GOLD E. LOCKS" (Torpy, 1986). This play can be presented to the friends and parents of the children. This play is an optional part of the unit and can be studied and rehearsed during free time, at home, or in theatrical arts.

See the activity, A Visitor From Outer Space, (McBee 1992), for an additional in-class activity on individuals rights. Before the close of activity one make sure the students know that the robbery was fabricated and that the incident was for learning purposes only.



Three methods of evaluation are: (a) the students can be evaluated as a group on the cooperative work charts that have been prepared, (b) they can be evaluated individually if the group presents their chart to the class and each student has to take a part in the presentation, (How well does the individual understand what he/she is explaining?), and (c) following the activity the students can be asked to write down what they think the responsibilities of a citizen are during a crime and what should be done and who should be notified.




Out-of-School Learning Opportunity

Have the students discuss the fake robbery at school with their parents. The children can then record down what their parents think

should be done and how they would solve the problem. The results of the parent survey can then be presented the next day in class and compared to what the students courses of action were. Work on the play can begin at home also.





Lesson Goals

The students will learn how the rights of citizens are protected by a police officer.

The students will understand the role that a police officer has during and after a crime.

The student will begin to identify, describe, and gatherinformation about the crime.


Description of Activity

At this time have the police officer come into the class and explain what they do in the community and how they would go about solving the student's problem. Have the children tell the officer what they know about the crime and then have the police officer comment on what is possible for the students to do and how they can protect the rights of all of the students in the school. The officer can discuss how they gather evidence, report on it, and turn it over to the detective. The teacher should make sure and give the police officer as much information as possible before hand as to what has transpired in the class and what is expected of the officer while in the classroom.

Following the police officer's visit have the children redo their plans as necessary and gather any more information as needed from the eye witnesses. Discuss with the students what they have learned and what they now plan to do. Direct the students in identifying, listing, and discussing with their groups about the information they have or need to obtain about the crime.

At this point the teacher can have the groups do research at the library on what the job functions are for a lawyer, police officer, judge, and a detective. This can be done as a group assignment with cooperative work or as individual student assignments. The length of the research will depend upon the expectations of the teacher for the class and how the students are to present their research. A suggestion would be to have the students do the research in an approach where each group takes a different job function and prepares a class presentation. The use of charts and markers, pictures, the internet, librarians, and a computer with a CD ROM add to the fun of the activity.

It is of extreme importance that the teacher has done her/his own research here to determine what is available to the children and where they can go to find it. The school librarian and computer specialist should be notified well in advance in order to help the children in their studies. Getting the students excited and then having them only find an encyclopedia for their research will kill the activity and their learning.

Using the children's research and preparing and bringing in other visual items such as bulletin boards, posters, pictures, and videos of community personnel in action will stimulate more discussion and feedback from the children. Have this information, as well as the duties and responsibilities of the justice personnel, displayed around the room as soon as possible so the children are reminded of the functions, terms and responsibilities of the community personnel. Be sure to use these as teaching aids and discussion starters, not just as room decorations. The teacher will play a vital role in this activity by asking questions and directing students in their research and presentations. The success of the activity depends on the discussion of the researched information not on the amount of information gathered.



The students can be evaluated on this activity in a variety of ways: (a) on their participation in each group, (b) their presentations given, (c) by a simple paper test of job functions, (d) by having the children each write a two or three question test to give the teacher about the rights of a citizen or the role of a police office, and (e) by informally talking with each child while he/she is working on the activity.


Out of School Learning Opportunity


Have the children take this quote from the Roman Emperor Julian home and ask their parents what it means. "If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?" Make sure that the quote is discussed in the next social studies period.The children can also be looking for and collecting newspaper clippings of police officers in action. Have the children post them on the bulletin board during their free time and recess.The students can continue to work at home on their parts for the school play.




Lesson Goals


The students will learn what the role of a detective is.

The students will become familiar with the term searchwarrant and understand the necessity of and the protection that it affords each citizen.

The students will work cooperatively to prepare, evaluate, and present the information necessary to obtain a search warrant.


Description of Activity


Activity three begins with a visit from a detective. It is always wise to discuss with the children what is expected from the students before any visitor comes to the classroom. Help them to list any questions they may want to ask or discuss with the visitor.

The detective can discuss with the children his/her job functions and what he/she needs to do before any actual robbers could be apprehended. Have the children present the information they have to the detective and then with his/her help they can determine what needs to be accomplished. Have the detective discuss with the students how and why the children may need a search warrant and how to obtain one.

Following the detective's presentation the children should be ready to try to locate the robbers. Before doing so review with the students their plans for each group and what they have learned from the detective. What are they looking for? How are they going to find it? Where are they going to go? Do they need a search warrant? What information do they need to obtain for warrant? Why is a warrant necessary? Who does a warrant protect? Discuss how the students would feel if the detective could come into their house without a warrant. The teacher can play the role of a judge here and make the students show what evidence they have and the necessity of the warrant before one is issued. Do not be in a hurry to give out the warrant. Require the students to prove they really need one.

The teacher may have to suggest to the students the right direction at times. Such as the possible classrooms where the robbers came from, or how the robbers may try to hide their masks.

From pre-planning the teacher should be aware of these small details where the students would have no idea. If the students expect to search every desk then they had better have a search warrant that authorizes such a search.

When the children go into a classroom looking for the robbers make sure it has been cleared with the teachers and classes involved. The robbers can be wearing T shirts again and have the masks in their desks along with the container the money was in. If the detectives, the students, were doing their research from the eye witnesses they will be looking for two people in white T shirts, which may have masks as described by the eye witnesses and the container of money as described by the person who was robbed. Have the children go into at least two classrooms to make it interesting. Not everyone from each group can be a detective so the group will have to decide who will be the detectives from their group. The rest of the students can follow and watch from the back of the classes.

When the detectives apprehend the robbers they can escort them out of the class and take them to a made up jail in the classroom. At this point the class and the teacher can discuss what happens next with the robbers. They will go to court. Inform the students that in the next activity they will start learning about the court system and will have a field trip to a courtroom and be able to meet a local judge. It may be wise to let the robbers go back to their classroom at this time. See lesson 5 of the activity, Take Me Out To The Ball Game (Davis, 1992), for additional material on solving crimes.


The students can be individually evaluated when the group presents their case for a warrant. The teacher can ask a probing question of each individual student of the group during the application for the warrant. Students can write down in their journals for the day what they believe the role of a detective is in the justice system, why warrants are so important to a free society, and what is necessary to obtain a warrant.


Out of School Learning Opportunity


In colonial times the British soldiers had the right to search any house and seize what they wanted. Have the children ask their parents why the King of England would allow the soldiers to do this in the early days of our country.

Encourage the students to discuss the robbery role play at school with their family and find out how their parents would solve the problem. Work on the class play can continue.







Lesson Goals

The student will understand and appreciate the role of a judge in the judicial system.

The student will be able to make a mental and visual connection between what they have been learning about and the actual courtroom and justice personnel.

The student will be able to identify and describe what takes place in a courtroom and a jail, provided a tour to both areas can be taken.

The student will be able to describe how groups of citizens and their government work together to protect the rightsof everyone in the community.


Description of the Activity

Before the field trip have the children discuss what they expect to see. Have them write down questions they may want to ask the judge. If the courthouse is near the jail this is also a good time to have the students visit the jail. If the class is lucky enough to see the court in action make sure the students know how to act in a courthouse when the judicial system is in progress.

Review with the students whom they will see in the courtroom, such as the court recorder, bailiff, witnesses, prosecuting attorney, lawyers, judge, and individuals involved in the case. Discuss their duties and what the students can expect to see them doing and why. The students can take small notebooks with them to write down whom they see in action and what that person was accomplishing.

Before the field trip inform the judge what has taken place in the classroom so he/she will understand what is going on and what can be discussed with the students. The notebooks the students bring with them should have the questions that the students want to ask. They can also use these notebooks to write down things they do not understand and want to ask the teacher about later. Have students draw a picture of the courtroom listing all of the people and their functions. If they are watching a case have them describe the case and their reaction to what is happening.

After returning from the field trip review with the students what they have learned and seen. Many questions can be ask to stimulate discussion. How has their vision of the judicial system changed? If they could change how the system works what would they do? Why? If they saw a judge make a court decision did they agree? Did they think all of the people in the courtroom agreed with the judge's decision? Do all people in the court have to agree? Why? Was the judge fair? Does the word fair mean the same to everyone?

Discuss plans for the up coming courtroom appearance of the robbers and how they may want the room to look. Have the students label each part of the room as it would be known in a courtroom.



Evaluation of the students can be done from the discussion at the end of the field trip. Use a name check list while talking and listening to the students to make sure each student is either asked a direct question or has responded in a manner to show competence with the stated objectives.

An assessment can also be accomplished by reviewing the note books that the students took with them on the field trip. Look for questions, answers, or descriptions that show a depth of understanding.


Out of School Learning Opportunity

Encourage the students to discuss the field trip with their family and to describe what they saw. Have the children discuss with their parents how a person becomes a judge and why a judge can not make everyone happy. Work can continue on the class play.




Lesson Goals


The students will be able to locate, access, organize, and prepare to present information that is necessary in a court of law, age appropriate of course.

The students will continue to learn to work in acooperative manner to accomplish a goal.


Description of the Activity


In this activity divide the children into four to six groups. Two or three groups will have the responsibility of the prosecuting attorney. Two or three groups will have the roll of the defense attorney. The teacher will have to take some class time here to review and describe the roles and functions of the attorneys. If the children have seen a case presented at the courthouse or have been participating in the class play, these roles will be easy to describe.

Through collaboration the members within each group can prepare a case to present in a courtroom. The students should be able to obtain the information necessary for their case from the research at the library, in classroom publications, on the internet, notes taken from previous speakers, and the field trips. Having the groups make charts and outlines of what and how they want to present will help to condense the information. This activity will need constant monitoring by the teacher for guidance, direction, and support.

After the groups have come to some basic conclusions on what they want to do then combine the prosecuting and defense attorney groups. Have each group work together in picking the best information and methods that will be used in the court case. If time permits and the groups are willing, the teacher may elect to have two or three court cases presented. Each group will have to elect two individuals to be the presenters in the courtroom.

At this point the teacher should discuss how the courtroom will function. The students should be familiar with the courtroom from the speakers, the field trip, and participation in the class play. Give details such as: (a) who presents their case first, (b) how witnesses are called, (c) what the court recorder and bailiff do, (d) what the function of the jury is, and (e) how the case will be decided.

Inform the class that the next activity will be the courtroom presentation. The judge should be the teacher, or a court official who is willing to help, in order to keep the rules and regulations of a normal courtroom. Have some students sit in the appropriate places and walk through the proceedings of a courtroom so they will be ready to present their case in the next activity when the jury is called.



Have each child write what they think is the most incriminating evidence against the robbers, how it was obtained, and if it is enough to prove that the accused are guilty. Perhaps the students think the accused should have an alibi, if so have them write an explanation that they think should be enough to prove the robbers innocence.


Out of school learning opportunity


Encourage the students to take home the assessment assignment and discuss it with their parents. Have the students present the information and ask for a guilty or innocent verdict from each member of the family. The student can then bring the information back to class for discussion and analysis.




Lesson Goals


The students will be able to describe, identify personnel, and be able to give examples of the process of the law enforcement and community court system.

The students will be able to describe the factors that contribute to the function of the judicial system.

The students will be able to demonstrate how citizens of a community solve their problems in a court of law.


Description of the Activity


This activity will complete the unit on the community law enforcement and the court system. Having a jury called from a nearby classroom will probably add to the activity and give the class presenting the case more of an incentive to be precise in their presentation. Before the jury arrives make sure that every side is prepared. Give them time to review whom they are going to call as witness and what questions they are going to ask. Remind them of the basic right of an accused person. The accused are innocent until proven guilty. If they want to see justice done then the individuals must be proven innocent or guilty before a jury called from the school community.

Have everyone take their place and the judge can then call in the accused students and the jury. The judge should review what is about to take place and the necessity of such a proceeding. Following the instructions to the courtroom, jury, and all of the participants the judge will then call on the prosecuting attorney to present the case against the accused. From here on the court will proceed as required until the jury has been given the case for deliberation. If the teacher, acting as the judge, is not sure how to conduct a court hearing then previous research should be accomplished by the teacher to assure that the correct procedures are followed. The jury should be instructed before they leave the room on how to reach a consensus and one member should be chosen as the Forman. Tell the jury they will have 10 minutes to reach a decision.

When the jury leaves the room the teacher or the judge can explain what happens in the jury room and how a decision is reached. Make sure the participants in the trial understand that a time limit is not normally set on a jury but exceptions in this case will have to be made. This would also be a good time to show the video of what actually happened. The students in the courtroom could then compare the actual event with what was presented in the courtroom.

Following the video or when the jury has reached an agreement, the jurors can be called back into class and the formal decision can be given to the judge and announced to the courtroom. The judge can then hold the prisoners in jail or let them go as required and release the jurors.

At this time a culminating discussion should take place as a critique for the unit. Possible questions that can be ask or starting points for discussion are listed below.

1. What did the students like or dislike about the unit?

2. What is the most important item they learned from the unit?

3. What are the rights of a citizen in a community?

4. What are the responsibilities of a citizen in a community?

5. What are the rights of the accused?

6. Who are the people in our community that protect our rights?

7. What can the students do to support our law enforcement and judicial personnel?

8. How important is it for the attorney, judge, police officer, and detective to do a thorough Job? WHY ?


This unit introduces the student to a situation that is fabricated by the teacher but is directly related to a real world situation. Make sure the students have had the opportunity to discuss the units direct application to themselves as students and as community members. Feelings, contrasting points of view, and outside experiences should be welcomed and encouraged. GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN!!!



Have each child describe what the judicial system means to them? Have the children work in small groups and prepare a test for the teacher covering the objectives of the unit. Each student could submit at least two questions for a unit test. The students could be ask to individually respond to a situation such as the following example.

At school Billy's new Game Boy computer came up missing. A friend of Billy's told him that Richard took it home. Billy was so mad that he took off at lunch time and went to Richard's house. He went inside and went to Richard's room and searched for it. What did Billy do wrong? What should he have done? What would you have done if you were Billy?


Out of School Learning Opportunity

Encourage the children to discuss the results of the courtroom role play with their family. If the class is presenting the play of Gold E. Locks the children can finish learning their parts and prepare for the presentation.






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