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A Connecticut judiciary program gets fifth graders involved in civics

An American flag hangs in a classroom as students work on laptops.
David Zalubowski
An American flag hangs in a classroom as students work on laptops.

Connecticut fifth graders are taking civics lessons from the experts. Lawyers and judges are visiting classrooms across the state to teach kids about the democratic process through a Civics Academy program.

The state Judicial Branch, the Department of Education, and the Connecticut Bar Association have partnered to deliver 50-minute lessons about democracy- and what it means for a fifth grader.

Alison Chandler manages experimental learning programs for the judicial branch. She said the lesson covers fairness, laws and citizens’ role in democracy in a way that is fun for kids.

“Something we hear time and again from teachers is that when authorities from outside of their school come and talk to the kids, it really makes the kids feel like, ‘I'm important. I have a role here,’” Chandler said.

Chief Court Administrator Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto said the program shows kids that they have a voice in state and federal democracy.

“I'm hoping it inspires them to do public service, and a career in either being a lawyer or maybe even a judge someday, and that they have a better understanding of how things operate around them and are inspired to join, and know that they have a voice in this democracy,” Bozzuto said.

While the Civics Academy is currently for fifth graders, it could expand in the future.

“This is the very beginning of the Civics Academy, but it's certainly a platform that can be expanded in the future to later grades,” Bozzuto said. “So that's definitely on our radar and in our thought process as this thing evolves. So stay tuned, there should be more added to the Civics Academy.”

The program is offered to any Connecticut school interested. The lesson is fully self-contained and requires no prep work from teachers.

Interested teachers can call or email the Judicial Branch’s External Affairs office at 860-757-2270 or external.affairs@jud.ct.gov.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.