Instructional summer camps are always educational, but University of South Carolina Sumter's "Mock Trial" camp last week offered a twist with the opportunity for students to explore the inner workings of the court system by playing out various …
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Instructional summer camps are always educational, but University of South Carolina Sumter's "Mock Trial" camp last week offered a twist with the opportunity for students to explore the inner workings of the court system by playing out various roles.
USC Sumter political science professor Damien Picariello administered the first-time camp to 18 students, ages 9 to 14. The camp was part of the college's expanded summer day camp series in late June that offered four instructional options. The "Mock Trial" Camp and the history camp, "From Sumter to Appomattox," were new this year.
On Friday, the students played roles in a case of a father and son suing the son's school district, alleging the district and a middle-school teacher were negligent and responsible after the son badly injured his hand while demonstrating his volcano science project (made by the two of them with real firecracker powder) to his classmates at a bus stop.
Austin Foddrill, an 11-year-old who attends Thomas Sumter Academy, played the role of the father, John Parker, on the plaintiff's side. Austin said during the week he was able to play all the positions in the case and see how much work actually goes into a case before a verdict is rendered.
Thomas Kang, a 12-year-old who attends Wilson Hall, played a defense attorney for the school district on Friday. During the week, he said he learned key courtroom concepts that he didn't know before.
"I thought the judge convicted the person, but now I know it's the jury," Thomas said. "My dad said that in other countries the judge actually convicts them."
Ethan Proctor, a 13-year-old home-school student, played the role of judge and also got to play all the roles throughout the week.
He said one of the most important things he learned in "Mock Trial" was that in a court case, you can't simply make assumptions, but you "must have facts behind it and be able to prove it."
Picariello said he was pleased with how the camp went, especially because it's the camp's first year.
"I think we saw a lot of the participants come out of their shells a little bit," Picariello said. "Some of them came in the first day a little bit quiet, shy and not necessarily enthusiastic about talking with other participants. By the end, they opened up and were great witnesses, great lawyers and great jurors."
Perhaps 12-year-old Luella Jennings of Sumter Christian School had the best takeaway from the camp.
"I learned you can be anything you put your mind to, and I really think I could be a good attorney," Luella said.
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