JACKSON TWP.  A team of middle school students is preparing to present its first case in state competitions on March 31 in Columbus.

Jackson Memorial Middle School mock trial advisor Chelsea Clapper started the program this year for students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades..

The middle school showcase is hosted by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE). There are 26 middle schools from across the state expected to compete this year. Clapper said she has 10 students preparing for a case selected by the OCLRE.

"This year’s case is based on the novel 'Johnny Tremain' by Esther Forbes. It’s a classic and is well-taught in schools," Clapper said.

The case is Johnny Tremain versus the British Crown. It’s set in Boston, Mass., during the American Revolution. The students must argue for or against whether he committed treason. Half of the team will present as attorneys and half will be witnesses.

Clapper said she started the team because she was in the mock trial program all four years when she attended Jackson High School. Plus, she’s a language arts teacher so the case fit will with her curriculum.

"When I started teaching here, I was an assistant in the high school program and learned a lot. I decided to start a program in the middle school to help familiarize and prepare the students for the high school program," Clapper said. "Students can learn so much from being a part of the program such as speaking skills, critical thinking and thinking while on their feet," she said.

The team can be given a superlative of excellent, outstanding or superior. Individual awards can be given to team members for Outstanding Witness or Outstanding Lawyer.