Bookmark This! Our Courts Especially for Middle School Students

screenshot, our courts
Wed 19 2009

EDITORIAL NOTE (9/30/10): Our Courts has since changed its name to iCivics. Please change your bookmarks to

When President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, we pointed out that the judicial system is perhaps the least understood and the most complicated to teach among the three branches of the U.S. government. (Please see The Supreme Court: Connections Between Past and Present.)

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is helping teachers solve the problem, hooking students into understanding the judicial system and civic involvement via a new website, Our Courts. Planned especially for middle school students, the site engages visitors in online games that teach about legal decision-making, the role of various components of government, and the judicial system.

The website encourages critical and analytical thinking through interactive games.

The interactive games and complementary lesson plans are well-scaffolded and segmented to allow teachers and students to proceed at a pace appropriate for the classroom and to allow for both interactivity and classroom discussion and reinforcement. Critical and analytical thinking skills underlie the progression of each unit. Justice O'Connor's goal is to attract students toward civic involvement and public service and to encourage students learn how to analyze problems and to develop arguments. In the process, students learn the basics of the U.S. Constitution and U.S Bill of Rights.

Our Courts considers how 21st century students learn.

Our Courts is about civics education—nicknamed cyber-civics by some participants—developed by experts from Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor School or Law and the School of Education in conjunction with Georgetown University Law Center. They considered how 21st century students learn and the practical needs of teachers and schools.

And as an added feature, students can contact Justice O'Connor with questions, and she'll answer online!

About the Author

Lee Ann Ghajar is a digital history associate in Public Projects at CHNM and a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University.