Students Use Moot Courts to Deliberate Vaccine Mandates

The Education with Democracy Roadmap Pedagogy Companion elevates the need for civics educators to teach constitutional democracy as both content AND practice. Simulations of democratic processes are important tools teachers can use to help students understand how institutions within our republic work and opportunities to make a “more perfect union” through institutional and social transformations through both formal and informal processes, per Theme 5 of the EAD Roadmap.

Rebekah Camacho, a middle school social studies teacher at Jewel Middle School in North Aurora, Illinois, is one of 33 participants in the Fall 2021 Guardians of Democracy Microcredential program. Rebekah earned her Silver badge in the use of Simulations of Democratic Processes in the classroom. Part of her coursework had Rebekah craft, implement and reflect on a lesson plan using this proven practice of civic education in a community of practice. Rebekah chose to engage her students in a Moot Court to explore the current and societal issue of vaccine mandates. We asked Rebekah to share her experience. Here are her responses.

Briefly describe your topic for your simulation. What prompt did you use? Why is this an open and relevant issue for students? 

I wanted to focus on vaccine mandates since it is such a hot topic right now.  I used a very general topic: Are vaccine mandates constitutional?  I did have students focus most of their attention on mandates in schools.  This is open because it is constantly in the news and people have very strong opinions about it, even going to court.  It is relevant for students because they might have to get the vaccine to attend school.

What strategy did you use for this simulation?  Why did you choose this strategy? 

I chose the moot court strategy.  I was initially going to do a legislative hearing in the form of a school board meeting.  After discussing that idea with the course facilitator, I opted for the moot court as it would be less political.

How did students gain the necessary background knowledge for this simulation? 

Students watched a video and we discussed the procedures for a moot court beforehand.  Students were also given multiple sources on both sides of the vaccine controversy.  Together, as a class, we looked at a Supreme Court case that set a precedent.  Students were able to research anything they felt would be helpful too.

How did this activity deepen students’ disciplinary content knowledge and/or meet learning targets?

A major learning target is to show students simulations of democratic processes as part of our Civics component.  That goal was definitely met through this activity.

How did this project deepen students’ knowledge of themselves and their community?

I think that this activity was eye-opening to some students.  A lot of them felt vaccines were not a very big deal.  They were surprised to see what is going on with the Chicago Police Department.

What advice would you give teachers thinking about opportunities for engaging their students in classroom simulations of democratic processes?

I would suggest that they try it.  Activities like this are engaging and great learning opportunities for students.