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OJEN committee activities

OJEN committees typically take on a broad range of activities and initiatives depending on the interests, needs and resources of their communities, stakeholders and members. As a starting point, OJEN recommends that a new committee’s first project be to establish and cultivate links between local schools and the legal community in the form of a robust Courtrooms and Classrooms program.

Courtrooms and Classrooms is OJEN’s flagship school-based program. It is also our broadest reaching, impacting over 30,000 young Ontarians every year. The program encompasses two core activities: 

  • school visits to observe matters in local courthouses
  • visits to classrooms from local lawyers and other justice sector professionals

In addition to supporting teachers’ needs to provide rich educational experiences, both activities increase young peoples’ comfort with and understanding of the justice system.

Organizing school visits to the local courthouse

To request a school trip to the local courthouse, teachers first submit a request form using the OJEN website. The form includes details about the date requested, characteristics of the group visiting and contact information for the requesting teacher. More than 70 Ontario Courthouses are available through this mechanism, and if your local courthouse is not represented, please contact us and we will work to remedy this. 

The request form is sent automatically to both OJEN staff and key courthouse staff. Typically, it is the role of the local committee to appoint the courthouse staff member who will receive the request, check whether the requested date is available, and correspond with the requesting teacher to confirm the visit. OJEN asks teachers to give at least 3 weeks of lead time for courthouses to manage their requests.

In addition to observing court, many courthouses also offer an option to have students take part in other programming, such as meeting with courthouse staff, touring the facility, or watching a mock sentencing demonstration. If a committee wishes to add elements like these to their local courthouse visit program, we recommend that the committee designate someone on the committee to take responsibility for coordinating them. OJEN staff are available to provide insight and support when establishing and managing expanded courthouse visit programs.

Organizing classroom guest speakers

Committees should designate members to take responsibility for connecting local lawyers and other justice sector volunteers to schools requesting experts to speak about the law and the justice system.

As with the courthouse visit program, these guest speaker requests are made on the OJEN website, and OJEN staff liaise with local committees to arrange the visit. In our experience, there are two main models to do this:

  • Making use of the local law association: In some cases it is very helpful for committees to include or have access to local law librarians or others who have access to an email list of local lawyers. Often, these people will maintain a newsletter or other publication in which current requests can be advertised.
  • Designating committee members: In some cases the committee will have members who are already connected to various legal groups and can canvass for volunteers using these connections. Most commonly, this involves someone to take responsibility for requests for Crowns, one for criminal defense lawyers and one for civil lawyers.

When OJEN staff receive requests, they pass them on to the appropriate committee volunteer, who forwards them to their contacts and connects prospective speakers with the OJEN staff to finalize connecting them to the requesting teacher. 

Volunteers are often asked to speak about their career and educational pathways, their role in the justice system, interesting cases they have worked on and current issues in law and justice. Sometimes, they are requested for specific expertise, like explaining a complicated legal issue or concept, or coaching and judging mock hearing in schools.

Typically we ask teachers to provide 4-5 weeks of lead time to find an appropriate volunteer for their classroom.

Other justice education programs to consider

In addition to the two core Courtrooms and Classrooms activities described above, OJEN committees will often organize other justice education programs that are tailored to meet the needs of local youth. 

OJEN Committees decide which activities or programs to undertake. Some of OJEN’s most innovative program ideas were generated by a local Committee considering the needs of its community. Committees are encouraged to develop new justice education initiatives, but we ask that you inform the OJEN provincial office before starting the project. We may be able to assist with these new endeavours and/or provide materials that will avoid duplicative effort. The Waterloo OJEN committee’s Braiding Diversity program and the Hamilton OJEN committee’s Twitter Moot are two good examples of these kinds of committee-initiated programs.  

The following list of “other justice education programs” are activities that developed over time and have become very popular. OJEN staff collaborated with volunteer educators, lawyers, community workers and young people, to develop, pilot and iterate these programs. They are legally accurate, curriculum-linked, skill-building activities designed to be fun and engaging. They are examples of justice education activities which may be a good fit for your committee and community. 

Please contact the OJEN provincial office ( for more information and assistance in planning any of these activities.  OJEN staff members can share planning guides, program and workshop agendas, as well as volunteer training materials which can assist you in delivering any of these justice education programs. 

Mock Hearings

Program Length: 4-5 sessions.

Audience: Variable.

Mock hearings are one of OJEN’s core program models. We have materials available for mock hearings on a wide range of legal topics, including multiple criminal charges, bail hearings, human rights tribunal cases, landlord and tenant board cases, international criminal court cases, and more. To browse the mock trials available, visit OJEN’s resources webpage and filter the resources by “Mock Hearings.”

In most mock hearings, students are divided into two teams – the prosecution and defence (or applicant/respondent, plaintiff/defendant, etc.). Students take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, parties, and other courtroom actors. With coaching from a lawyer, they prepare to act out a mock hearing as a culminating activity. Running mock hearing programs with community partners (i.e. instead of school partners) are an excellent way to engage young people outside of the classroom. OJEN often partners with after-school programs, Boys & Girls’ Clubs, Indigenous friendship centres and newcomer settlement organizations which offer youth programming in order to run an OJEN mock hearing program.

In partnership with the Ontario Bar Association, OJEN also runs a province-wide competitive mock trial program (the OOCMT) which engages 170+ schools in 17 mock trial tournaments across Ontario. An OJEN staff member works with 17 OOCMT organizing committees to register schools, match student teams with mock trial coaches and organize the tournaments. In some cities and regions, the OOCMT organizing committee is a subcommittee of the local OJEN committee. 

Justice 101s

Program Length: 2-3 sessions

Audience: Best for outreach audiences and community-based programming; can be appropriate for ESL students and First Nations youth.

Justice 101s are a series of one-off workshops on common legal topics. They are facilitated with the assistance of lawyers, judges, paralegals, etc., and use scenarios and interactive activities to build young people’s comfort with legal issues.  Justice 101s address topics like employment law, criminal law, human rights and discrimination. They include a warm-up activity which helps introduce your volunteers, a few core legal concepts, and a small group task.

The Access to Justice Game

Program Length: 1-2 sessions

Audience: Any.

Access to Justice is an under-discussed element of public legal education. In this program, you facilitate a workshop introducing youth to some key concepts in A2J and common legal issues and then run a simulation in which students try to navigate the system and get legal help. The program materials include everything you need to run the simulation, including scenarios and instructions for students playing legal service providers. 

A Foot in the Door/ADR

Program Length: 1-4 sessions

Audience: Grade 9-12, Introduction to Business (Grade 9 or 10), Civics (Grade 10) Law (Grade 11-12)

A Foot in the Door provides an introduction to real estate and housing law in Ontario. Students engage in interactive activities on budgeting, mortgages and how to rent. They also learn about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants and develop practical skills through a series of mock negotiation exercises. A Foot in the Door resource can be used in a classroom/community setting as part of a multi-session workshop.

OJEN on the Air

Program Length: 4-6 sessions

Audience: Grades 9-12

In this project, youth participants collaborate with legal expert(s) and a local radio station to create a short radio segment about a pressing legal issue facing their community. Over four to six sessions, students: choose and learn about a legal topic, write interview questions, draft scripts, record the interview with a legal expert, and reflect on their experience after the radio segment airs. Should a local radio station not come on as a project partner, students can alternatively record their segment as a podcast.

Law Symposiums

Program length: 4-6 sessions over the course of one day

Audience: Grades 9-12

An OJEN Law Symposium is a day-long educational event for high school students, which is hosted by a local high school, college or university. Law Symposiums feature multiple workshops on a range of legal topics, facilitated by lawyers, professors and other justice sector professionals. Law Symposiums are a unique opportunity for students from multiple high schools to come together and learn about law directly from people who work in the sector.

Law Institutes for Teachers

Program length: full-day activity 

Audience: high school teachers of law and civics

OJEN Law Institutes are professional development programs that offer teachers a forum for learning, dialogue and exchange with leaders from the legal system. Teachers are given an opportunity to engage in conversations with judges, lawyers, academics, law enforcement, community activists, and other experts about timely legal issues that enhance classroom teaching and learning. Teacher participants might:

  • Hear amazing presentations
  • Participate in critical dialogues with peers and experts
  • Watch or play a role in demonstrations of legal processes

Each year, OJEN holds Law Institutes in a few different locations around the province, providing teachers with the opportunity to connect with justice sector professionals working in their local region.  This particular justice education program requires the assistance of staff from the OJEN provincial office, so OJEN committees interested in hosting a Law Institute should contact if they would like to consider organizing this event. (Law Institutes typically take at least at least 4-5 months to plan.) OJEN has hosted Law Institutes in Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury, London and Thunder Bay.

Provincial office-initiated projects

From time to time, the OJEN provincial office receives funding to pilot a new type of justice education program. When this happens, OJEN staff may reach out to an OJEN committee for assistance in piloting the project in their community. OJEN staff take the lead on developing, coordinating, delivering and evaluating the program, with OJEN committees providing support and guidance along the way. An example of this is OJEN’s 3-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to pilot Youth-Police Dialogues throughout Ontario.

Next: Working with the OJEN provincial office



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