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posted: Mon, Jun 22nd, 2015

For students that love animals – and reading about them

The Animal Lover’s Book Club is here. It’s an opportunity for students to read great books about animals, share summaries with other club members, and participate in an animal celebration on September 28. 

The special day will feature guests with animal-related careers and also give students an opportunity to bring their pets to the outdoor event.

Invited guests we are hoping will join us include: the handlers of rescue dogs and therapy dogs, veterinarians, police officers with K-9 units, animal shelter staff members with pets for adoption, zookeepers, and local farmers and their animals.

“The Animal Lover’s Book Club encourages kids to read and exposes them to many careers that involve animals,” said librarian and media specialist David Eisenberg, organizer of the Animal Lover’s Book Club. “So many teachers have contributed their expertise and perspectives. It will be a fun and informative afternoon for everyone.”

How it works:

To be eligible to participate, a student must read one of the books from the following reading list this summer and complete a technology-related project (e.g. short video, Prezi, Glogster, Wordle, Google Slideshow, or any other approved online project):

  • Boys Are Dogs or Girls Acting Catty by Leslie Margolis

  • A book in the Seekers or Warriors series by Erin Hunter

  • A book in the Guardians of Ga'hoole series by Kathryn Lasky

  • Framed, Zoobreak, Swindle, or Showoff  by Gordon Korman

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by William Rollings

  • A Dog’s Life: An Autobiography of a Stray by Ann Martin

  • Bannicula by Deborah Howe, or any subsequent book in the series

* This is in addition to books on the required summer reading list. 

A seventh-grader may also do a project about an animal-related profession to qualify.

A signed permission slip will also be required authorizing a student to take part in the activities. (The permission slips will be distributed in September.) 

Rules for bringing pets

• A student is not required to bring in a pet to participate in the activities.

• Pets will be outdoors at all times. No pets will be allowed in the school building or on school buses.

• A pet must be brought to the event and accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian.

• All pets must be caged or leashed at all times.

• Proof of current vaccinations will be required in advance.

Download a program flyer HERE and watch for more info!

Students have their day in court

Here’s the scenario:

Aaron, a high school student with Asperger’s Syndrome (a disorder related to autism) joins an afterschool archery club. Aaron’s parents sign a standard waiver form allowing him to participate. During a club discussion lead by the coach, Aaron shoots himself in the foot with an arrow. Now the parents are suing the school district for negligence. 

That’s the case created by MOMS students in the gifted and talented program for a recent mock trial competition sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. For its efforts the team took home an honorable mention, one of just 12 awards out of more than 150 entries.

The G&T team had a choice between creating a case involving the 4th Amendment (i.e. search and seizures) or one involving sports in schools.

The students first compiled a written description of the case and submitted it in the fall. The case development, writing, and organization gave them an immersive crash course in civil litigation. The students researched and cited case laws that would support both the defense and plaintiff, listed witnesses and described their testimonies, and even investigated the physical effects of such a foot injury.

“It was quite a challenge,” said teacher Rebecca Hull-Clark. “The students learned about basic law, civil vs. criminal, procedures in a courtroom… They used high level critical thinking skills and had to have very polished writing.”

In the spring, the team was notified of its award. As one of the 12 honored school teams, MOMS was invited to the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick to dramatize the case in front of a real judge and jury. About 40 students took part. In preparation, the students divided up roles - some were lawyers and some were witnesses - and wrote out and memorized their lines. Actual court procedures had to be followed at all times.

When all the testimony was in and summations given, the jury ruled 7-5 in favor of the parents and against the school, ultimately deciding that the coach should have paid more attention to Aaron since the coach knew about the Asperger’s.

The scenario that the students created was incredibly well-balanced, an observation made by the judge who heard the case. It wasn’t black and white, there wasn’t a clear right or wrong. It's reflective of many real-life civil cases, which are often complex and open to interpretation. (The students threw in their own complications into the suit such as having Aaron’s good friend support the coach.)

The lack of clear culpability in their case and all the others was eye-opening for students and a window into real life where much exists in varying shades of gray. The case was so evenly presented that many of the kids themselves still can’t decide who should have won.

“At the beginning, I didn’t know about the law and how civil cases work,” said Dana Faustino, a young MOMS lawyer who argued for the plaintiff. “I didn’t know how hard it is for the judge or jury to determine who is at fault. We can’t even decide ourselves.” 

The school received a plaque and students received certificates for their efforts. 

The MOMS teams have won awards in seven of the eight years the mock trial competition has been entered.

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Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

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