- Crystal Lake Elementary District 47
McHenry County Judges Tour District 47 Middle Schools
In January, McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Justin Hansen met virtually via Zoom with 265 Lundahl Middle School students to discuss the judicial system and civic engagement. On February 12th, he returned to District 47 with colleague Judge Jennifer Johnson to virtually with nearly 600 7th graders from Hannah Beardsley and Bernotas Middle Schools. Students learned about the Industrial Revolution, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the three branches of government (legislative, judicial, and executive). In addition, through dialogue and written responses, students provided what they considered to be “just” responses to sample court cases the judges presented.
According to Judge Hansen, “The students in these presentations are engaged and insightful. I hope that by spending a little bit of time on this topic, they better understand the judiciary, especially at the local level, and that they’re encouraged to be civically involved.”
Prior to the presentation, students had learned about civic and political systems in social studies class. The Illinois Social Sciences Learning Standards specifically state to "explain the origin, functions, and structure of government with reference to the U.S. Constitution, Illinois Constitution and other systems of government."
Judge Johnson wants students to realize why that standard is so important. “We hope that by providing students some real-life examples of how the judiciary works, they will continue to think about the law and what justice means in their lives,” she said.
Judge Hansen and District 47 began collaborating two years ago and hope to see the project expand to include more school districts, as well as presenters from other branches of government. Judge Hansen explained, “Ideally this expands county-wide to include each semester of civics taught. Students learn basic principles of government and see it at the local level, as presented by local officials.”
Judge Hansen and Judge Johnson follow in the footsteps of other judicial colleagues who have spent time in local classrooms. In addition, the presentation meets the objectives of organizations like the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association, which encourage attorneys, judges and court officials to engage with the public and their local communities to help them gain a broader understanding of the U.S. judicial system.