When people think of a trial, they think of lawyers and witnesses dramatically sentencing someone to jail for the heinous crimes they’ve committed. Students at Kingswood Oxford are a part of a case about negligence in a camp setting, causing a young girl to come down with a horrific case of Lyme disease.
Before people become concerned, they should know that it isn’t a real trial; instead, it is a mock trial, and it’s a popular club among both high schoolers and middle schoolers.
In Mock Trial, students play all roles in the trial other than the judge, according to junior Co-coach Madeline Arcaro. “Three lawyers and three witnesses on both sides, prosecution [or plaintiff] and defense replicate a real case,” she said.
For around four months, the team prepares to do this by practicing with their teammates on the opposing side. Mock trial is fun because friends are able to work together, and it allows students to showcase their skills in front of people, such as volunteer lawyer Co-coach Mrs. Theresa Ravalese, P ‘15, ‘17 and ‘20, who plays the role of the judge during practices. During the winter, the team competes against other middle schools that have been working on the same case.
During competitions spectators such as parents watch and marvel at what their children have learned about the law. “There are so many benefits of doing it, there’s a lot of acting involved, and it’s a good way of working with the team in the way you wouldn’t normally do on a sports team, ” Madeline said. Competitions only last through the end of March, and it’s a learning experience involving acting, public speaking and thinking on one’s feet.
Eighth-grader, Toby Van Wilgen enjoyed participating in his first trial as a witness for the plaintiff. “I feel like the first trial went really well, I mean, sure my team actually only tied, we actually thought the results would be different than they were,” he said.
Middle school team members meet every Thursday from 4 to 5:30, and sometimes more often closer to the competition dates. Eighth-grader, Jacob Mapp attends nearly all of these practices and understands the importance of each aspect of a trial.
“We go through everything, starting from our directs, our crosses, our openings, and closings. We basically just go through the trial, but we get tips and pointers so we can do better next time,” he said.
During the course of their mock trial experience, students will continue to grow in confidence and improve, especially if they do it the year after this one. This year’s mock trial team involves 12 members working together in a close environment for nearly five months, which lets everyone become friends and end up having a good experience.