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Our View: Gratifying to see Carroll County high school students applying what they’ve learned

Sometimes we worry that the main way we present Carroll County high school students to readers is through athletics on the sports page or as faceless statistics in education stories about standardized test results or the budget. They are much more than that and we hope readers enjoyed our coverage over the past week.

On Tuesday, we attended the final of the county’s high school mock trial competition, in which students spend weeks acting as prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses to build cases, with the assistance of real attorneys. Schools then face off against each other with real judges deciding the winner of each case. The event requires kids to memorize case law and then exhibit critical thinking and analysis. In the basement courtroom of the Carroll County Circuit Courthouse, judges Fred Hecker, Maria Oesterreicher and Richard Titus listened to students from Westminster go up against students from Liberty, declaring Westminster the victor, 70-68.

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Hecker said he was impressed by the competitors and that, if any of them show up in a real-life jury box in the future, he believes they will be well-informed and able to follow complex arguments. Westminster and Liberty will represent Carroll in the Circuit Court Championship against the top two teams from Anne Arundel and Howard counties on March 3, with the state semifinals set for March 4 and the finals March 5.

On Friday, we stopped by the Carroll County Student Government Association General Assembly as representatives from schools all around Carroll got together to give voice to their student bodies and to discuss policy and bylaws and vote on legislation — sort of like what the Maryland General Assembly was doing in Annapolis at the same time. (In fact, the CCSGA will travel to the Maryland General Assembly and witness the state’s legislators at work on March 12.)

The CCSGA also chose the next student representative to the Board of Education. The three students in the running spoke about the need for more resources in career counseling, such as filling out college applications, as well as leveling the playing field for students whose families can’t afford private tutors for entrance exams like the SAT. They want to reach more students with information about the BOE policies that will touch their daily lives, perhaps with a bigger social media presence. They also want to raise awareness for change in school climate, with more focus on inclusivity and more support for mental health challenges. It’s encouraging to see students so involved and we are sure Devanshi Mistry, who earned the student rep spot, will do a great job.

On Saturday, we covered another event in which students were using their brains, the annual Central Maryland Physics Olympics at Liberty High School. Some 50 teams from 20 schools faced six assignments, putting to use what they have learned in class in a competitive environment.

Liberty physics teacher Tim Durkin started the event 28 years ago. He noted that it was a success from the beginning, with nearly 100 students competing at the first one. On Saturday, he said, 258 students from seven counties and Baltimore City participated. “The idea is to get kids excited about physics and science. As we continue to move forward as a society, we need people trained to become our next set of researchers and problem solvers," Durkin told us.

A team from Mount Hebron accumulated the most points and a South Carroll team was the top finisher among Carroll squads. But everyone who took part came out a winner. “You learn things at school, and you don’t really understand how they apply to real life,” Kate Maerten, a Gerstell Academy student, told us. “Then you come to a competition like this and you apply them, and it is just a lot of fun doing it.”

Kudos to all who participated in these events, learning through doing.

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