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Laws - Who needs them? (7-9)

Laws - Who needs them? (7-9)

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Written by Hunter   
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:24
Deb Gehrman, Shephard Junior School, Mesa, AZ


Appropriate for grades 7-9.

OVERVIEW: Why do we have laws? The kids ask why we need rules at school, for a club, in the cafeteria, etc. The belief is that we don't need them; the rules are just there and must be followed.  The kids cannot conceptualize that we actually need them.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this unit on why laws/rules are needed is to provide students at the junior high level with the understanding needed for life that in order to function together, we need some parameters and guidelines.

OBJECTIVES: Student will be able to describe orally or in writing:

* what is needed in order for us to function as a society.

* how rules/laws are involved in our daily lives.

* what types of decisions must be made in order to solve problems facing our society.

* how they can have input into the forming of new laws to solve problems evident in their worlds.

ACTIVITIES: Following are two of the activities I use in my classroom. I also use "The Ring Game" and "No Vehicles in the Park" from Street Law: A Course in Practical Law, Third Edition, West Publishing Co.

Activity #1 MIND WALK

Purpose: May be used to introduce law studies in the classroom, and to illustrate the pervasiveness of law, that law is both civil and criminal, and the positive nature of law (i.e., most laws are protective, not punitive).

Materials: The following handout may be duplicated and handed out for class use, if desired, or a transparency could be made to be used as a whole class activity. Method: Describe a typical activity in an ordinary day, or tell a story about an event or incident. Tell students to stop the story any time they feel law affects the particular activity. If a student feels law does affect the activity, ask how.

Example: My name is John/Suzy. I live at 1014 Wilson Boulevard.  This morning I awoke at 7:00 a.m. I arose, washed my face, dressed, ate breakfast, read the paper, and drove to my job here at school.

Discussion: The first time through the story the students may not see many things with legal impact. At this point a few questions might help: "How are time zones established? Are there any laws regarding the wearing of clothes or their sale or manufacture?  What about laws affecting a free press and holding a job? Is food quality governed by some type of health regulations?"

It extends beyond that as is indicated on the 2nd copy of the handout, following this.

Followup: This activity can serve as an excellent pretest and post-test. Given at both the beginning and end of the semester, it can illustrate students' changed awareness about the pervasive nature of the law.


Purpose: "There ought to be a law..." How many times has each of us uttered or thought these words? This phrase has almost become an American folk-saying like "You can't fight City Hall!" It is used most often by angry citizens upset over some situation, condition, or practice which they feel could be remedied if only there were a law on the books to deal with it. Any new law must start as an idea.

Method: Write the phrase "There ought to be a law..." on the board. Ask students to complete the sentence by volunteering ideas about their own particular concerns. For example...

... banning beverages sold in non-returnable bottles.

... requiring a traffic signal at the corner of Main and Church Streets.

... lowering (or raising) the mandatory school attendance age.

... requiring jury trails for juvenile crime trials.

Describe a problem. Do not make one up--use a real one that you have seen in everyday life which you feel needs correcting. Use a half sheet of paper. Give reasons for how you feel. Half the points come from this description. Use the other half sheet of paper to write the law you feel would solve the problem described.

Example: In order to correct the problem of extra shopping carts in the parking lots of big shopping centers, this law would make it mandatory for grocery/drug stores to have the shopping carts cleared from the parking lot every 15 minutes. This would prevent accidents and would end the "runaway" cart problem. Failure to keep parking lots cleared of shopping carts would result in a fine of $50 for each time it is observed. Additional fines would mean the grocery/drug store would be in danger of losing their license to operate.

Be sure you describe the consequences of not obeying the law.
Make sure the consequences are reasonable and fit the law.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED: The list of resources for Law-Related Education is quite extensive. The following sources are recommended:

Street Law: A Course in Practical Law, third edition, West Publishing Co.

Teens, Crime and Community, National Institute for Citizen Education in the Law and National Crime Prevention Council.

Civil Justice and Criminal Justice, Constitutional Rights Foundation and Scholastic, Inc.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Students will be able to take the knowledge gained from this unit into other areas of their lives.  It could be at school, home, church, or within their own circle of friends. One method to incorporate this into other areas of a curriculum is to allow students to see how sports is affected if there were no rules, how chaotic the cafeteria would be without rules, how the highways would be affected without traffic laws, how products would be deficient with no regulations, etc.  Bringing in current events, resource persons from areas where the law is obviously a component to success (i.e. restaurants, hospitals, television or radio stations, police departments, military personnel, grocery stores, fish and game departments. etc.), and allowing their input into classroom/club rules, can all help to give relevancy to the students.



Directions: Next to every daily activity, please make the following notations:

Place an "X" in either the YES or NO spaces if you feel that the law (as you understand that term) does or does not affect that particular activity. If your response is YES, complete the next blank spaces by stating HOW the law affects that activity.

Use a pencil. (You may wish to change your answers later)


ACTIVITY                              YES   NO        HOW?

1. wake up/turn on light       X         electricity rates

2. wash your face X water rates,
purity standards

3. get dressed X nudity laws,
clothing regulations

4. eat breakfast X food-FDA,
packaging standards

5. read the newspaper/see an X free press,
ad for a furniture sale advertising regulations,
(you're thinking about safety regulations in
buying a sofa) manufacturing

6. get in your car X traffic laws

7. drive to school X traffic laws

8. buy lunch in the X health and safety
cafeteria regulations, FDA

9. stop in furniture store X credit laws,
advertised and purchase truth-in-lending laws,
sofa on credit. banking laws/money

10. pick up your paycheck, X taxes,
go to bank, and deposit banking laws
part of the check.

11. stop at supermarket, X meat inspection/FDA,
buy roast, canned fruit, pesticides on fresh
fruits and vegetables, produce,
milk. dairy products regulated

12. pick up prescription. X FDA drug laws

13. go home, discover you X landlord/tenant laws
have no heat. Call

14. turn on TV and watch X Federal Communications
while eating dinner. Commission rules/laws/
Free press,
safety laws on appliances

15. after dinner, a X Green River Ordinance,
salesman comes to your 3 days to change your
door, selling mind, Civil Law/Contracts
You don't buy them.

16. your landlord drops by X landlord/tenant laws,
to check on heat, and Civil Law/Contract,
you pay the rent. (checking account)

17. turn out lights, go to X electricity rates,
bed. bed/mattress
advertising laws/truth

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