A civics website that actually engages middle-schoolers

March 29, 2010

Once in a while, we come across a website that’s so cool, we need to tell the world about it.

Our Courts (www.ourcourts.org) is one such site. It was launched last year to make civics lessons more engaging for middle-school students – and it seems to be succeeding.

The project was led by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was concerned that students weren’t getting  the tools they need to encourage lifelong civic participation – and realized that their teachers often needed better materials and support.

The site features some nifty games, including “Argument Wars,” a courtroom simulator where students can argue historical Supreme Court cases by advancing arguments and choosing logical supports to back them up. (One of the tougher Argument Wars concerns Gideon v. Wainwright, the subject of a recent “Today in history” post on Westlaw Insider. Try it – it’s a real brain stretcher!)

A “Civics in Action” section tells real-life stories about middle-school students who find ways to improve their communities – like the Nebraska kids who successfully lobbied the state legislature for new bus driver safety standards after students became concerned about cell phone use.

One of the best features is a “Talk to the Justice” chat room, where students can ask Justice O’Connor questions and exchange messages about various topics and current events.

Be sure to check this site out – and share it with the young people in your life!

The Our Courts website home page