Constitution Works: Fifth grade tries cases in federal courtroom (year-end print edition)


BROOKLYN — Constitution Works, a program that educates kids aged five to 12 about the U.S. Constitution, was taught to fifth graders at Colonial School for the first time this spring. On June 5, the fifth grade took a field trip to federal court in Brooklyn to roleplay a constitutional case involving the First Amendment.

The grade was split up into justices and lawyers for different sides. There were two different court cases, A and B. In the end, the government won both in the A and the B case.

In the courthouse, the fifth graders spoke to two judges, Judge Sandra L. Townes and Chief Judge Carla E. Craig. They kindly met with the students to describe the courthouse and answer questions about it. After the field trip, all the students wrote letters to them and thanked them.

Mrs. Piera Hattar, a fifth grade teacher, was the person who came up with the idea to do Constitution Works. She had a great idea that turned out to be a great experience for the fifth grade.

“I found out about Constitution Works from prior teaching,” said Mrs. Hattar in an interview before the project started. “The kids loved the program and learned a lot, so I thought that we should do it here too.” She learned about it teaching in the city and applied for a grant from the Pelham Education Foundation.

Mr. Alexander Ventura, another fifth grade teacher, said, “The point of Constitution Works is to give students an authentic experience arguing for or against the First Amendment.”

Jack Murphy (5V), who played a lawyer for the newspaper the Denver Dispatch, said, “I enjoyed this. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed it.” Jack got his first choice of role to play, as he wanted  to be a newspaper lawyer, and he was in group B. He said he had “more fun then he predicted it would be” trying the constitutional case.

Natalia Cherner (5V), also a Denver Dispatch lawyer working on team B, said Constitution Works “was great,” but she was disappointed when she lost the case.

Olivia Berkery (5S), a government lawyer in team A, thought the project was fun. She said she loved writing the arguments she presented to the judges.

Maxwell Resnick (5S), a government lawyer in team A, got his first choice of role.

This story appeared in the June print edition of the Colonial Times.