Project LEAD lessons present many opportunities for students to discuss issues that are relevant to their own lives. It is important for students to engage in discussion because it teaches invaluable life skills, such as speaking and listening, the ability to have civil discussions about controversial issues, perspective and respect for diversity and critical thinking. Students receive immediate feedback from facilitators, who are interested in what students think and have to say. For students who struggle with reading and writing, discussion provides a way for them to demonstrate what they know. When students make connections between a lesson and their own lives, it dramatically increases their knowledge of the content and promotes desired dispositional outcomes.
Project LEAD students learn about democratic processes and gain perspective as they take on the roles of attorneys, judges, jurors and others associated with the criminal justice system. Learning about democratic institutions and processes increases students’ civic content knowledge. According to research in civic education, when young people have a deeper understanding of law-related content, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about law, authority and the legal system and less likely to become involved in illegal activities. Law-related education simulations and role plays, like those in Project LEAD, also open students’ minds to possible professions in the field.
Project LEAD provides lessons on contemporary civic issues that are relevant to young students. In the lessons, students choose how to address hypothetical bullying situations, learn about consequences of illicit drug use and read scenarios that depict instances of prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination. Students learn about specific laws that protect people from discrimination because of race, sex, religion, etc. Lessons include activities that help students develop responsible decision-making and other critical-thinking skills, which can help to reduce risky and delinquent behavior.
Years of research in law-related education illustrate the valuable impact that “outside resource people” have on increasing student knowledge and positive dispositions. One important protective factor in delinquency prevention is the establishment of productive relationships between students and adults, particularly those from fields of authority like prosecutors. Through Project LEAD, students learn that there are many people who care about them and want to see them lead successful lives.
Project LEAD lessons provide many opportunities for students to develop problem-solving skills, perspective and reasoning. The lesson on refusal skills is critical and takes place more than halfway through the curriculum so that students have already practiced certain critical-thinking skills, and more importantly, reached a comfort level with the facilitators.
Studies in substance abuse prevention have demonstrated that young people are better equipped to cope with peer pressure when they have learned and practiced refusal skills rather than having been taught to just say no. Youths are more susceptible to caring more about what others think about them than considering the consequences of negative behaviors. Refusal skills are comprised of responses students can use in typical peer pressure situations, giving them a way out of becoming involved in risky or illegal activities while keeping what they perceive as dignity.
The methods used to teach about the law and legal system matter. Students must be active, rather than passive, learners. Each Project LEAD lesson integrates interactive methods since lecture-based instruction does not yield the same results. Students learn important concepts about the criminal justice system like “reasonable doubt,” through performing plays, working in groups and conducting a mock trial. According to research in civic education, when young people have a deeper understanding of law-related content, they are more likely to develop positive attitudes about law, authority and the legal system and less likely to become involved in illegal activities.
For more information about Project LEAD
or if you experience technical difficulties using this site,
please contact us at the
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s
Public Affairs Division.
(213) 257-2960 or LEAD@da.lacounty.gov