Courthouse Classroom: Field Trips Aren’t Just for Kids

Posted by on March 15, 2013

Remember the excitement that came along with a field trip in elementary school? Permission slips were signed, money was sent to school, and you. Just. Couldn’t. Wait! until you and your friends got to board the bus to the zoo/museum/whathaveyou. You picked out your outfit days in advance and had a countdown on your mom’s calendar (or was that just me?).

paralegal degree program

Students in the paralegal degree program gather at Caribou Coffee after an intriguing day of touring the Hennepin County Courthouse and sitting in on various hearings.

And while the experience is awesome for you, what might possess a teacher to transport a herd of wild children to aforementioned zoo/museum/whathaveyou? It’s because of the amazing hands-on learning experience that a field trip affords the students. To get outside of the classroom and experience the world as it is can be much more educational than reading about it from a dated textbook or PowerPoint slide. It might be easier to observe something and take information away from the experience than to read about it. Hands-on learning provided via field trips can also appeal to all different learning types, such as visual, auditory and tactile.

Guess what? Field trips aren’t just for little kids! Field trips provide those exact same learning opportunities for college students as well, and applied and hands-on learning is something that Minnesota School of Business prides itself on.

Recently, our paralegal degree program’s litigation class got to take one field trip to the Hennepin County Courthouse in the Government Center.

“I love taking students out of the classroom to see what we are learning first hand,” said instructor Rachna Talwar.” It is so great to see their faces light up when they hear a term or see a concept come to life in the courtroom. This experience is so enriching because it gives students the ability to experience something new and provides a unique perspective to the class material.”

While there, they got to sit in on a number of trials, from a felony trial to a mental health competency case.  Here’s a little taste of what they got to see:

  1. Civil Forfeiture Hearing:  After a certain number of DWIs, the state is allowed to seize your car.  This was a hearing where the parties were trying to prevent that. During that hearing, the paralegal students also got to speak with the police officer that testified. They spoke to him about his experience being a witness, as it was his first hearing as a witness.
  2. Criminal Misdemeanor Court:  Students saw arraignments, a DWI plea bargain, and a hearing regarding the defendant’s mental fitness.
  3. Felony Trial: This was a jury trial, where the defendant was charged with drug possession  of crack-cocaine. Our paralegal degree students were able to see police officer testimony as well as expert testimony from the examiner’s office.

“It was a great day visiting the different court rooms,”said paralegal student, Liz Stigall. “It was interesting to see and hear real life situations that we talk about in class.”

After their time at the courthouse, the students gathered at Caribou Coffee and had a debrief of what they saw and general perceptions of the litigation process. Instructor Talwar also covered questions the students had regarding legal terminology they heard throughout the day.

“I loved going on a field trip!” paralegal program student Stephanie Rued said. “It was a fantastic way to apply what we are learning in the classroom to what’s going on in the real world.”

The evidence is clear (Zing! Courtroom pun!): field trips are pretty cool no matter what grade you’re in.


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