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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches 

Law and Ethics, Hampden Academy

Grade level:  11 - 12 (two sophomores have taken the course since it was first offered in 1995)

Promising Approaches

  • Instruction in Government, History, Law and Democracy
  • Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Available Resources
Snapshot of Practice in Action
Contact Information


Law and Ethics is a two-semester course, taught at an honors level of difficulty. Enrollment is by permission of the instructor in consultation with the guidance department.  Semester 1 is a prerequisite for Semester 2. 

The first semester concentrates on power--where it originates, where it is vested, how it is restrained and balanced.  During this semester students investigate sources of law including parts of the Maine and United States Constitutions, state and federal statutes, administrative rules, executive orders, local ordinances, people’s initiatives, state and federal appellate court decisions, and examples of international law, all in the context of either current events or history. 

The second semester is framed around the American Bar Association’s National Online Youth Summit, which engages high school students and their teachers from around the country, via the Internet, in an interactive, collaborative study of a contemporary Constitutional law and public policy issue. 

Both semesters include but are not limited to a number of field trips and speakers; lectures; class discussions; reading and writing assignments; and participation in simulations.  Students who enroll in either semester must be prepared to participate regularly in extended, in-depth class discussions; be closely questioned by the instructor, guest speaker(s), and/or peers; read and write critically and analytically; and use computers for research and writing. 

Special Features

Law and Ethics builds bridges between the school and legal communities through its emphasis on field trips and visits from outside resource people.  Its inclusion of the National Online Youth Summit incorporates technology meaningfully into student’s learning experiences, requires that students work collaboratively not only with each other within their own classroom but with students from around the United States, offers interdisciplinary learning through research and access to law and policy experts,  and teaches skills in analysis, civil discourse, and logical argumentation, and assesses student understanding through work products such as merit briefs, draft legislation, mock trials, and online written exchanges with peers, as well as through traditional written evaluations such as quizzes and tests.  The federal judiciary’s Open Doors of Justice program is a second special feature of the course.  A third special feature of the course is its use of a mock trial as part of its final semester evaluation.  

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key historical periods, episodes, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Available Resources

Street Law text; Constitutional Rights Foundation; American Civil Liberties Union; Maine Civil Liberties Union; University of Maine School of Law professors; former Chief Justice Wathen's Constitutional Law course; County bar associations; local law firms; Maine State Bar Association; Maine Bar Foundation; American Bar Association, Public Education Division; Maine Law and Civic Education; school and local public libraries for magazines and newspapers containing law-related articles and editorials; the Internet; state/federal courts and judges/justices (includes Open Doors of Justice program); retired or semi-retired judges/justices; county jails; federal, state, and county prosecutors and probation/parole officers; state and federal legislators; the Governor’s office; the Office of the Secretary of State; town government officials; state Democratic and Republican parties; many documentary films.

Snapshot of the Practice in Action

For a snapshot of Online Youth Summit activities, visit the following website: There are links to the directions for a merit brief writing assignment and rubrics. In addition, there is a link to a brief by Shiela N., 11th grader, Hampden Academy.  For a snapshot of the course content, follow the link to the final exam study guide, which reviews the course objectives.

Contact Information

Kathryn King
Hampden Academy
1 Main Rd. North
Hampden, ME  04444
207- 862-3791


Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy