Arnold students gain legal insight through Goldilocks mock trial

The courtroom drama at Arnold Elementary School boiled down to one central question: Did Goldilocks break into the three bears’ house and eat their porridge?
Students in Emily Faubel’s fifth-grade class gained important insight about the legal system this spring during a mock trial of Goldilocks. They used the famous story as a vehicle to learn more about attorneys, judges, jury deliberations and courtroom objections. 
Students Kyliegh, Stanley and Alex all played key roles in the mock trial. Kyliegh served as a defense attorney for Goldilocks and Stanley was a member of the prosecutorial team. Alex appeared on the witness stand as Goldilocks.
All three students said they enjoyed every aspect of the mock trial.
“It came to me that I should try to help her, because I don’t feel like she was guilty and I should try to help her not be proven guilty,” Kyliegh said. “It just felt like it was a good learning opportunity. It was cool to be part of it.”
“I really liked all the times they were asking questions, and objecting was fun too,” Stanley said. “It was fun to see if I was right on objecting.”
“It was really fun,” Alex said. “I think my classmates were really happy with how it went.”
Nebraska College of Law student Heather Haratsis guided them through the two-day educational process. Haratsis is a second-year law student and is a member of the Community Legal Education Project (CLEP). She has worked with students at eight Lincoln Public Schools buildings over the past 24 months. She said teaching students about the legal process and why it is a critical piece of a healthy society was essential.
“It’s important to know these things,” Haratsis said. “It’s important to have a trust in having these trials. It’s important to trust attorneys and judges. It’s important to trust the process.”
Faubel said the activity taught her class a large amount of valuable knowledge. Attorneys had to use critical-thinking skills when coming up with their arguments and counterarguments, and members of each legal team had to plan how to present their cases most effectively. Witnesses, attorneys and jury members all had to pay attention to the testimony and details of the story for their parts of the trial.
“The whole process has been really interesting for the students,” Faubel said. “Being able to think about their questions and making sure it’s relevant to the case is something that I feel helped us make a really nice connection with our knowledge block later in the day. We were able to tie this in with our writing and how you create good writing from different pieces of information. It’s been a really good learning experience.”
Haratsis contacted Faubel in January and asked if she could work with her class this spring. She followed a similar plan to her visits with Kooser, Fredstrom and Maxey students earlier in the year.
Haratsis talked about the entire courtroom process during her first day. She spoke about objections and closing arguments, helped students draft a mock opening argument and went over the Goldilocks storyline. Students could also volunteer for different roles in the trial.
Alex said he jumped at the chance to portray the main character. He said he enjoyed being on the witness stand and answering questions from both groups of attorneys.
“It was my opportunity, and no one else was raising their hand for Goldilocks, so I thought it would be my moment,” Alex said.
Haratsis served as the judge for the trial and helped students if they had a question about legal maneuvers. She gave a high five to one student who successfully raised an objection during the trial, and she overruled attempts by attorneys to pose “leading questions” to witnesses. She also overruled an attempt by a jury member to object to a question.
Haratsis said she was impressed with the way the class approached the mock trial.
“I think they all did really good,” Haratsis said. “All of the kids were amazing, and they got so excited about wanting to be part of the process and wanting to learn about what a trial is and how a trial actually works.”
The jury listened to closing arguments by both sides before gathering for deliberations. Haratsis met with them and said their decision had to be unanimous.
The jury felt Goldilocks was guilty of one count of breaking and entering into the bears’ home and one count of theft of porridge. They felt she was not guilty of one count of intentionally breaking a chair.
Haratsis said she hoped the experience would plant a seed for students of one day helping society through jobs in the judicial branch of government.
“Seeing some of them come out of it like, ‘Oh, I want to be an attorney,’ or ‘Oh, I want to be a judge one day,’ and build that passion, build that dream of having that big career and understanding the law is really amazing to me,” Haratsis said. “I want to inspire more kids to be excited about going to school, going to law school and then having a career in the law.”
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Published: May 3, 2024, Updated: May 3, 2024

Fifth graders at Arnold Elementary School take part in a courtroom case involving Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Students in Emily Faubel's class learned about the legal system by examining the famous story. Students portrayed roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys and story characters during the trial of Goldilocks.