Examining inalienable human rights and corporate rights.

Ultimate Teach-In:
Kids, Climate, and the Courts

Based on Lesson 6 of Activating My Democracy, this workshop explores game-changing actions in real time: how to use our rights to defend against government abuses of power. Participants consider why people seek judicial relief and examine basic elements of a civil lawsuit, drawing on real examples from the youth-driven landmark climate cases in federal and state courts. Participants explore: “standing” in a court of law; how new rights are recognized; rights under the Public Trust Doctrine; court remedies in constitutional rights cases; and how cases proceed through the state court system. Participants gain an understanding of how values, law, science, and politics interface when addressing complex public problems with multiple perspectives.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Describe why people seek judicial relief and how civil cases proceed through the court system
  • Explain how new fundamental rights are determined
  • Explain why the landmark youth-driven lawsuits are constitutional rights cases and the possible scope of social consequences
  • Describe the basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and peoples’ rights under this doctrine
  • Identify ways for students to act locally to build on youth momentum in civic engagement
  • Understand the connection between sustainable systems and authentic democracy

Feature Activities

  • Partner vocab activity: “Unscramble this case”
  • Group activity: “Statement of standing:” Identify claims of harm to 4 types of wealth
  • Small group activity: “You be the Judge:” Decide whether some of the goals in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution can be met without a stable climate system
  • Small group activity: “Know your rights”
  • Identify public trust resources from list of public property
  • Small group activity: “Game Changer”
  • Partner activity: “IN BRIEF for Educators” example
  • Individual reflection activity: “How might you use this in your classroom?”

Sharing Activities

  • Review vocab and overview of youth-driven climate cases (10 min)
  • Discuss examples of harm to four types of wealth (economic, environmental, social, and political) (20 min)
  • Group discussion and tally of votes to determine whether the right to a stable climate system should be recognized as a new fundamental right (20 min)
  • Introduce public trust doctrine and interactive discussion (15 min)
  • Introduces court system and comparison of youth legal activities in two states (30 min)
  • Introduction of nexus to Lesson 6: IN BRIEF for Educators and discussion (10 min)
  • Share ideas and suggestions (15 min)
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