Mock Trial cultivates a collaborative learning environment

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For weeks from January to March 2021, each Thursday evening, then-junior Ryan Hachey would put on a neat suit and tie and sit in front of his computer to join his team in a Mock Trial competition. Although the club meetings and competitions were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hachey and his Mock Trial teammates were just as enthusiastic and dedicated as before. Their hard work reaped many wins, bringing them to the statewide quarterfinals competition.

In the new school year, Mock Trial members are excited to be back in person for activities. The goal of the club is not only to remain strong in competitions, but also to build an active community that helps team members to develop lifelong skills such as critical thinking and public speaking.

Adviser Kathy Simmons emphasizes the importance of a collaborative learning environment in the club. “In Mock Trial, we develop a sense of camaraderie and working together,” she said. “It’s a joy to come to practices, go to trials and feel like you’re part of this team.”

Hachey, who has been in Mock Trial since he was a freshman, values this community. “It’s a really good bonding experience,” he said. “I met a lot of my close friends now through Mock Trial.”

Teamwork is crucial for Mock Trial as students need to work in teams of defense or prosecution, assuming the roles of lawyers or witnesses. Although each member plays a specific role in the trial, the team needs to work together to ensure the entire presentation of the court case is clear, consistent and credible.

Simmons aids both teams in their case preparation. “Witnesses are memorizing their affidavits and figuring out ways they’re going to answer questions. Lawyers are trying to think of strategies to prove any weaknesses in their questioning. They work together on the case,” she said.

Experienced club members like Hachey are also ready to take on more responsibilities in helping other members, especially those who do not have in-person trial experiences. “[A couple of other members and I] are the only people that have in-person experience so building up a community is a really big thing for the future years to come,” he said.

Currently, Mock Trial is recruiting new members to fill in understudy positions. They recently hosted an information session. Sophomore Mallory Striplin is one of the interested students who attended the meeting. She is particularly impressed with the inviting environment of the club.

“I felt welcomed and felt it’s a place where [other students] encourage you to be better, to grow as a person and as a Mock Trial member,” Striplin said. “I hope to interact with others who know more about [trials] than me and learn from them.”

The club will hold tryouts for prospective members. Interested students will memorize an example witness affidavit and have a panel of lawyers on the team asking them questions based on the affidavit to see how they will respond.

In the coming months, Mock Trial will be busy with various skill-building activities and competition preparation. Those experiences will allow students to explore new avenues, gain self-confidence and acquire knowledge about the judicial system and legal processes.

“It’s fun to work with the other students here,” Simmons said, “because we’re all committed to doing well.”

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