Legal Literacy for Youth: An Integrated, Holistic Project for BC Schools

Principal Investigator(s) /Chercheur principal (Chercheurs principaux):

Wanda Cassidy, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

Co-Investigator(s) /Co-chercheurs:

Özlem Sensoy, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.


Law Foundation of BC (Amount: $ 337,718)


2008-2010 (Status/Statut: Ongoing)

Contact Information/Personne contact:

Tel: 778:782-4484 E-Mail: Office: Education Building 8664 SFU Burnaby


“Law is not a static system of rules, developed on high by a few and passed down to citizens without input or redress. Law in a democracy is meant to reflect the values, mores, and hopes of the society at large...As ideals and beliefs change and develop, so does (or should) the law. Often there is a tension between existing law and where society wants to go, but this tension and fundamental to an open and responsive society." (Cassidy, p 129)This three year project, undertaken by the Centre for Education, Law, & Society (CELS) and sponsored by the Law Foundation of British Columbia, is focused on teaching youth in Grades 6 through 10 (across six curriculum areas: social studies; science; language arts/English, career and personal planning; social responsibility; and student leadership) about such fundamental legal concepts as the “rule of law” and what it means to live in and work towards an open, responsive and “just society.”

Project Objectives/Objectifs du projet:

The work we will be doing with students and teachers will focus on four areas of interest to youth at this age: Citizenship, Human Rights, Identity, Language and Culture, and Environmental Sustainability. Each of these areas will serve as an entry point to understanding the relationship between law and the
values of a democratic and just society.

Research Plan/Plan de recherche:

Although coordinated by CELS, the project involves collaboration with the
University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, the BC Teachers’ Federation, Conseil Scolaire Francophone, as well as several local school districts and educational organizations. The project involves least eight schools, four secondary and four elementary, some English-speaking and others French-speaking, each of which has made an approximate two-year commitment. The project has several facets including: a one-day forum in 2008 and 2009 and a summer institute in 2010; on-line survey research involving students and teachers; classroom and school- level studies with students and teachers; the development of curriculum materials; and professional development opportunities for teachers and prospective teachers.


As education professionals we are keenly aware that resource development in isolation from effective teacher professional development means that resources go unused. We also know that the education of teachers must be supported by useful classroom materials that are connected to issues and ideas that students care about. In order for BC youth to become more familiar with the legal/justice system, have a greater appreciation of the rule of law, and better understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, we must undertake a holistic, thematic, issues-based approach that reaches beyond the Social Education curriculum. By developing a broader, wider reaching, holistic and integrated approach, this project hopes to contribute to improving the legal and justice literacy of children and youth.