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Justice Teaching gears up for Constitution Day

Managing Editor Regular News

Justice Lewis and students

JUSTICE FRED LEWIS, center, launched Justice Teaching in 2006 and the civics education program is now active in some 3,800 public schools and more than 350 private schools. Lewis is pictured here with students at Sabal Palm Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Justice Teaching gears up for Constitution Day

Mark D. Killian

Managing Editor

During Constitution Week this month, volunteers will fan out across the state with the goal of bringing the United States Constitution to life for all Florida students.

Now in its sixth year, Justice Teaching trains and provides age level-appropriate curriculum to volunteer attorneys and judges who visit one classroom at a time to deliver civics education in an interactive, informal style.

It’s an approach Justice Fred Lewis has used for more than a dozen years of visiting Florida schools, talking one-on-one to students at all levels about the Constitution, teaching them about their rights as citizens by taking care to make the topic timely and relevant to their lives.

“The experiment of school visits to provide educational sessions with predesigned lesson plans began in January 1999 and, based on those seven years of experience, matured in 2006 into the formal program now known as Justice Teaching,” said Justice Lewis, who created the program

Justice Teaching now boasts 4,000 volunteers who provide multiple sessions in Florida schools each year.

“The vision of promoting knowledge of our Constitution in a fair and nonpartisan educational plan has been made possible only by the dedicated voluntary effort of Justice Teaching lawyers and judges who have given of themselves to make Justice Teaching a tremendous success,” said Justice Lewis. “We are so very thankful for all of the lawyers and judges who have responded for Florida’s students and look forward to another great school year.”

Initially designed to begin in public schools, Justice Teaching has expanded beyond the some 3,800 Florida public schools it now serves and into more than 350 private schools and beyond the borders into other states.

Lewis will spend Constitution Day, September 17, with students at Florida Keys Community College.

The week of September 17-23, Constitution Week, is an ideal time for Justice Teaching to rev up for the new school year, said JT coordinator Michelle Ballard.

In 2005, Congress designated September 17 — the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the U.S. Constitution — as a day “to hold educational programs for students” on the Constitution. Authorizing legislation states that all educational institutions and federal agencies receiving federal funds hold educational programs about the Constitution on September 17.

“Every year in August we send out an email to the Justice Teaching volunteers encouraging them to contact their assigned schools to schedule a visit during Constitution Week,” Ballard said.

Justice Teaching aims to benefit students by promoting understanding of Florida’s justice system and laws, developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and demonstrating the effective interaction of courts within the constitutional structure of our government. It calls on judges and lawyers to serve as resources for the teachers and students in each and every elementary, middle, and high school in Florida.

Justice Teaching is always recruiting judges and attorneys to be matched with a school in their community. Training is offered throughout the state to prepare volunteers to go into classrooms with lesson plans that have proven effective in engaging students to discuss the justice system and how it impacts their lives.

“We are very pleased with the success of the program and its coverage and the sheer number of people who are participating,” Ballard said. “It is something to be proud of.”

Interested volunteers should go to www.justiceteaching.org to sign up electronically and learn more about the initiative. Volunteers may also email the program at [email protected].

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