CEDAR RAPIDS — Some 220 middle school students are taking the #CRGavelChallenge to a new level this weekend as they descend on the Linn County Courthouse for the regional Middle School Mock Trail competition.
Twenty two middle school teams from Cedar Rapids and Marion compete Saturday for the chance to move on to the state mock trial competition, said regional coordinator Jim Efting.
“And it’s really great to be hosting this competition back downtown and to be getting the kids in a real courtroom,” said Efting, noting this is the first time the event has been held at the Linn County Courthouse since the Flood of 2008.
Mock trial is an extracurricular program designed to introduce students to the legal system, with emphasis on research, presentation and teamwork. This year’s case, Desafios vs. Storm Chase, explores both sides of the law related to a fatality during an obstacle course race.
On Saturday, some 220 students are to present cases they’ve prepared arguments for in front of local judges and are to be scored on various criteria. Local lawyers previously worked with students to help prepare them for the competition.
Three trial sessions are planned during the day Saturday — 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — with each team competing twice. By Saturday afternoon, five teams are to be announced as the regional middle school winners and can punch their tickets to the State Middle School Mock Trail competition Nov. 14-16 in Des Moines.
Efting knows first hand all the work that goes into preparing for Saturday’s competition, as he has long served as the coach for state championship winning mock trial teams from Regis Middle School in Cedar Rapids.
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“These sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are putting in a lot of time,” he said. “They have been working for the past two months, five days a week in preparation.”
He’s proud to be part of a program that is building lifelong skills.
“It’s great to see these kids using their Saturday for something so positive. They are using their speaking, listening and thinking-on-their-feet skills,” Efting said. “Once they get into the courtroom on Saturday those students are on their own. The coach cannot speak to their teams until the trial is over.”
Efting said the public is welcome to attend Saturday’s competition although seating in each courtroom is limited. For more information about the middle school mock trial program visit iowabar.org/?MSMockTrial.