Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Mock Trial 2017– Jackson is NOT Guilty!

10:45AM   April 6th, 2017

On March 30, 2017, the Villa Academy 8th Grade U.S. History students traveled to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle to try former president Andrew Jackson for his alleged crimes against humanity, which occurred in the 1830’s as Americans moved west. The specific charges stated that “President Andrew Jackson, with premeditated intent, did conduct or authorize a widespread or systemic attack against a civilian population (herein, the Cherokee Nation), where the following methods were employed: murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and other similar inhuman acts that caused great suffering and serious injury.”

The 8th grade students spent almost eight weeks preparing for this trial. Prep included learning the historical context of Native American removal, specifically, the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. Then, students digested almost thirty pages of primary source material, which ranged from speeches to letters, from first-hand accounts to Supreme Court decisions, and maps to formal portraits. After several discussions about trial strategy and then further research to support our strategies, students selected six witnesses for each the prosecution and the defense. Once students were given roles, they had to write a statement about how their role fit into the context of the trial, and what evidence from the source material packet –and another cache of additional materials– would assist them. Final preparations involved digging further into research for particular roles and strategies, drafting opening and closing statements and examination questions, learning about courtroom protocol, questioning techniques, voir dire, and practicing their testimonies.

Margaret(Prosecution) Opening Statements David N.(Defense)
Prosecution Witnesses
DX: Amelia Mr. Samuel CloudJulian CX: Claire K.
DX: Kaden Priv. John G. BurnettGarett CX: Greta
DX: Ryan P. Davy CrockettAnnaliese CX: Raven
DX: Kate M. MicanopyKelly CX: Sofie R.
DX: Linsey Justice John MarshallEthan CX: Eleanor
DX: Lily F. Chief John RossJenna CX: Aidan (Voir Dire)
Defense Witnesses
DX: Billy (Voir Dire) Gov. Wilson LumpkinTaylor C. CX: Ryan Y.
DX: Kate H. Mr. John MarstonLily S. CX: Alicia
DX: Nyssa Major RidgeGreyson CX: Ethan B.
DX: Hannah Mr. Elias Boudinot IIReilly CX: Sofia N.
DX: Me-lin Brig. Gen. Winfield ScottRyan J. CX: Owen
DX: Cameron Pres. Andrew JacksonMaya CX: Ella
Claire F.(Prosecution)Simon– Rebuttal Closing Arguments Marika(Defense)

The trial opened with jury selection. Facing a pool of 13 possible jurors, student attorneys began the voir dire process, asking questions of the jury pool to begin to shape their own side’s narrative. Both prosecution and defense identified favorable jurors and were able to strike jury pool members who hinted that they may not “buy into” the narrative of the case. This year, potential jurors were questioned about a number of topics including the president’s role and the story of Beauty and the Beast. Potential jurors were asked to focus only on the role and actions of the president in general, and to avoid discussing current, or recent, presidents. Further, jurors were asked to avoid topics such as healthcare, taxes, emails, Russia, golf, or Twitter, as none of those were relevant during the Trail of Tears and westward movement. Ultimately, four potential jurors were dismissed by the teams of defense and prosecution attorneys.

As opening statements began, members of both the jury and the gallery were quickly absorbed with stories of greed and corruption, hardship and confusion, and the threads that weave our diverse American history. Students battled back and forth between direct and cross examinations, showcasing both their exhaustive preparation and their abilities to think on their feet. The prosecution focused on the destruction of the Cherokee Nation and other native groups at the hands of greedy politicians. They compared the confinement and removal of the Cherokee to the Holocaust and Japanese internment camps. They showed the jury two competing maps: “The White Man’s Map, 1812,” and “The Indian Map, 1812,” which demonstrated that maps depend on perspective. One on map, the jury saw clearly delineated states. On the other, they saw the same land divided by five distinct native groups known as the “Civilized Tribes.”

The defense focused on the difficult decisions that Presidents and Heads of State are often required to make. They suggested that Jackson was forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. By deciding to move the Cherokee, they argued, Jackson made a difficult decision that he believed would cost the fewest lives while also providing the best option for long term security for both the country and Native American sovereignty. They conceded that while Jackson did, in fact, aim to help the Cherokee, his actions did not have the intended impact.

Ultimately, the jury returned a NOT GUILTY verdict after debating the charges and testimony. While the jury agreed that this was an inexcusable event in American history, they believed that Andrew Jackson could not shoulder the blame legally.

The students impressed everyone: the judge, court clerks, visiting parents, jurors, Mr. Guadagno, and both Ms. Brooks and Ms. May. One member of the court staff said that she’d been a middle school teacher for several years and was incredibly impressed with how poised and professional our students were.

Students reflected on their Mock Trial experience. One said, “I realize now, after the trial, that so many different powers and decisions led to the Trail of Tears, and it would be extremely difficult to blame any one person. Another extremely interesting thing about the trial was that it brought history closer to us. It made us see all of the points of view, all of the decisions, and all of the people involved. It made us think of the historical event as if it was recently, which throws an entirely new and exciting light on things… The trial made us envision and understand what it was like to live during this period of politics and change. This is extremely important if we want to be able to empathize in any way with the past.”

Another student reflected, “I think that mock trial is an amazing part of the 8th Grade History curriculum because it is a very good experience for us. Not only do we learn about history, we also have fun in the process… Mock trial allows us to think outside the box and do an interesting project. I also think it is really cool to go to a real courthouse, in front of a real judge and learn all at the same time. This project can be a valuable and fun lesson to all, even for students who do not plan to become lawyers. I think it’s important for students to see how their government works and to be a part of the process even in a scripted way. In today’s casual world it is valuable for youth to participate in a formal courtroom setting.”

Judge Coughenour was equally impressed with our students. He awarded four students with “Best Witness” and “Best Attorney” gavels: Greyson, Julian, David, and Raven. Judge Coughenour then invited the students to ask questions about his career, including his appointment by President Reagan and his most well-known cases. The students were able to tour Judge Coughenour’s office, library, and jury room.

Thank you so much to parent drivers and jury members, and especially to Mr. Guadagno for all of his time and effort!

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Mock Trial 2016– Photos and Review

11:11AM   December 14th, 2016

Nyssa L. and Ethan B. go free!

Nyssa, accused of killing her Humanities Teacher with a Pokemon Ball and a candlestick, has been acquitted. The prosecution called Detective Billy W., who made clear connections between the forensic evidence found at the crime scene (including Nyssa’s fingerprints and blood type), presented evidence that Nyssa was failing Humanities — a logical motive for murder, and established Nyssa’s history of feuding with her teachers, including P.E. teacher Ms. Raven D. Unfortunately, however, they failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense relied heavily on testimony from Dr. Aidan S., a recently-published paranormal expert / author, who suggested that dormant spirits in the sacristy were the likely culprits, having been awakened from their slumber by Nyssa and Mei-lin’s Pokemon adventure. The defense also cast doubt on Detective W.’s competence, and called Sofie, who testified to Nyssa’s empathy and compassion for her friends.

 

Ethan B., owner of online shoe store Hugo Got Hype, has recently been acquitted of killing Bobby Sheldon. Mr. B. was accused of stabbing Sheldon and carving a “V” into his forehead for loyalty pledge he’d made when purchasing the shoes. The prosecution made a strong case with all the forensic evidence at the scene of the crime leading to Ethan including Ethan’s blood type, fingerprints, and shoe prints at the scene. Yet, they failed to prove Ethan guilty beyond reasonable doubt due to lack of motive. The main witness for the prosecution, Simon J., had an equal motive and was not investigated thoroughly enough. The defense relied heavily on the fact that no other suspects were considered, and the lack of clear motive, to win the case.

 

Leading up to the trials, 8th grade students studied the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They attended Law School in a Day with Mr. Guadagno, learned about the intersection of the Bill of Rights and police work / crime scene investigation, and analyzed forensic evidence in their science classes.

 

See below, photos of our crime scenes, our visits from Sergeant Lang and Detective Biggs from SPD, and our trials.

 

CSI: Villa
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Sergeant Lang and Detective Biggs (and Watson, the dog)
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The State vs. Nyssa L.
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The State vs. Ethan B.
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8A Protests Their History Textbook

12:07PM   April 29th, 2016

This year, we piloted an online textbook for 8th Grade History. The text connects to Common Core standards, the National Council of Social Studies standards, and 21st Century Skills. The online text provides a foundation of content from which we have further investigated topics like the Constitution and Bill of Rights, westward expansion, immigration, industrialization, reform efforts, and slavery.

Our study of slavery took an interesting turn! We read the text, took notes, and discussed the material together as a class. Students had many questions about slavery that either were not addressed by the text, or were addressed in ways that did not reconcile with what they already knew. Once we were confident in our fundamental understanding, we began to curate our slavery museum. The slavery museum is an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of their choice (family life, spirituality, law, abolition, Jim Crow, resistance, or labor) using designated materials such as diaries, maps, legal codes, letters, pictures, and secondary sources.

The museum was fascinating. The students demonstrated interest, engagement, empathy, and understanding with their artifacts, research, and responses. Perhaps what was most rewarding to me, was their criticism of their textbook in contrast to what they learned in the museum. I had noted these inconsistencies in the text when I reviewed the section, but decided to facilitate, rather than direct, further questioning. Once the students raised their own protestations, we went back to review the textbook. Though the text provided essential background, it did not tell the complete story honoring the experience of slavery. This provided the students with a critical learning opportunity to ask questions, weigh the consequences of the choices made by the textbook publisher, and advocate for a more authentic representation. After three days of investigation and discussion, the students considered their options: they could ignore the inconsistencies, or they could advocate for a change. The following letter, written to the authors of the textbook, is the result of our comparison between the text and our independent research. The students collaborated to create a goal and an outline for their letter. Then they broke into groups to tackle each section. Finally, the students came together again to join their sections, make suggestions, revise for clarity, and complete a final edit.

 

Villa Academy 8th Grade History

5001 N. 50th St.

Seattle, WA 98105

 

Mr. Davidson and Mr. Stoff

Pearson Education, Inc.

1900 E. Lake Ave

Glenview, IL 60025

Dear Mr. Davidson and Mr. Stoff,

We are 8th grade students at Villa Academy in Seattle, Washington. We are writing because you have omitted important information on the topic of slavery in your online textbook, American History. We found it difficult to fully understand both the horrors and the long-term impact of slavery by reading the textbook alone. We feel we were deprived of the opportunity of understanding the aspect of slavery in America’s past. The sense of the chapter was that slavery just wasn’t that bad. After studying the lesson, we still did not know how awful the slaves were treated and how gruesome their situation was. The pictures you used made slavery look happy and joyful. The colors were bright and their clothes were never dirty. The slaves were always standing up straight, rather than bending over, laboring. These images made us think that the slaves’ work was easy. The pictures did not capture the grittiness and cruelty of slavery. For example, the photo of a slave’s house that you used looks like a nice cabin that you could rent for a camping trip. If you were to go to a different source, you would see that the houses were built poorly. They had holes in the roofs, they were tiny and ramshackle, and many families had to be crammed into them. The barns for plantation animals were better built than the slave cabins.

When you write things like, “Even the kindest slave owners insisted that their enslaved workers work long, hard days” (Lesson 7.2.4), you imply that some slave owners were kind. We understand that there were some who were kinder than others, but really, they were still slave owners and they still owned slaves. This sentence implied that we could ignore all of the horrible things that the slaves had to go through. Slave owners didn’t just insist that slaves do their work. They whipped, killed, raped, tortured, hung, starved, and abused the slaves if they didn’t do their work. We noted that your word choice was also questionable. Of 19th century territorial advance, you wrote, “In 1848, the Mexican War added vast western lands to the United States.” This implies a passive gift-giving, rather than a bloody war aimed at expansionism (Lesson 8.1.2). Finally, by underscoring Harriet Tubman’s lack of direct experience with slavery (Lesson 8.1.6), you undermine the value of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

You left out details regarding some very important topics. You failed to represent the cruelty and poor working conditions that the slaves lived in. Another thing you forgot to mention is the perspective and experience of the slaves. You could have included oral histories, diaries, and letters in your “primary documents” sections. Without these details, you paint an image of slaves who barely faced discrimination and lived healthy lives, and this isn’t the truth. The truth is that slavery was one of the darkest periods in U.S. history, and it needs to be represented as such. We would rather be informed that the era of slavery was terrible time in our history, than be given the impression that the slaves had easy work, were well-clothed, and lived generally happy lives despite being enslaved. These details made us wonder why the slaves rebelled in the ways that they did. The texts raise questions about why slavery was abolished if it helped the U.S. economy.

We think that you should rewrite the chapter to include all of the information that was missing. We think that you should add information about the slave trade and slave punishments, instead of briefly bringing up the punishments that the slaves endured. We think that you should talk about how slaves were lynched, whipped to death, and assaulted. We would appreciate it if you went into the fact that babies weren’t expected to live because of the poor medical conditions. We would like you to write about how before the cotton gin was invented, slaves would have to work at home after their long hours of labor on the plantation to clean the cotton. We also think that you should use more liberal language to honor the majority of students who truly desire to understand slavery’s legacy.

While we plan to investigate alternative texts for next year, we  also look forward to hearing your thoughts on our critiques of the online version of American History.

Regards,

8A History

Villa Academy

 


8th Grade Mock Trial: Andrew Jackson is NOT GUILTY

2:14PM   March 3rd, 2016

On February 25, 2016, the Villa Academy 8th Grade U.S. History students traveled to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle to try former president Andrew Jackson for his alleged crimes against humanity, which occurred in the 1830’s as Americans moved west. The specific charges stated that “President Andrew Jackson, with premeditated intent, did conduct or authorize a widespread or systemic attack against a civilian population (herein, the Cherokee Nation), where the following methods were employed: murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and other similar inhuman acts that caused great suffering and serious injury.”

The 8th grade students spent almost seven weeks preparing for this trial. Prep included learning the historical context of Native American removal, specifically, the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. Then, students digested almost thirty pages of primary source material, which ranged from speeches to letters, from first-hand accounts to Supreme Court decisions, and maps to formal portraits. After several discussions about trial strategy and then further research to support our strategies, students selected seven witnesses for each the prosecution and the defense. Once students were given roles, they had to write a statement about how their role fit into the context of the trial, and what evidence from the source material packet would assist them. Final preparations involved digging further into research for particular roles and strategies, drafting opening and closing statements and examination questions, learning about courtroom protocol, questioning techniques, voir dire and objection rules, and practicing their testimonies.

The trial opened with jury selection. Facing a pool of 13 possible jurors, student attorneys began the voir dire process, asking questions of the jury pool to begin to shape their own side’s narrative. Both prosecution and defense identified favorable jurors and were able to strike jury pool members who hinted that they may not “buy in” to the narrative of the case.

The trial lasted several hours, though a few jurors were in tears within minutes of the Prosecution’s opening statement. Students battled back and forth between direct and cross examinations, showcasing both their exhaustive preparation and their abilities to think on their feet. 8A, the prosecution, focused on the nature of politics, wherein politicians often say something to get elected, only to act differently when in offce, during their opening and closing statements. Defending President Jackson was 8B, who focused on the difficult decisions Presidents and Heads of State have to make, and the process of making those decisions, to suggest that while Jackson did, in fact, aim to help the Cherokee, his actions did not have the intended impact.

Ultimately, the jury returned a NOT GUILTY verdict after debating the charges and testimony. While the jury agreed that this was an inexcusable event in American history, they believed that Andrew Jackson could not shoulder the blame legally.

The students impressed everyone: the judge, court clerks, visiting parents, jurors, Mr. Guadagno, and both Ms. Brooks and Ms. Reznicek. In fact, the court staff has since said that the kids were incredibly professional, poised, and confident.

One parent-spectator commented, “What a huge success today! The students were so professional. They clearly understood both the moral and ethical issues of Native removal as well as the complex legal analysis of the case. I was amazed to see all of my kid’s hard work put into action. It’s a highlight of 8th Grade.”

One student said, “Mock Trial was engaging, fun, greatly informative, and one of the best parts of 8th grade. Mock Trial requires students to research in depth and in doing so turns history class into a big game that everyone can enjoy.”

Another said, “Mock Trial really engaged me and I feel like learning about the Judicial system in this way is preparing me for the real world where I might need to be on a jury.”

Judge Coughenour invited the students to ask questions about his career, including his appointment by President Reagan and his most well-known cases. The students were able to tour Judge Coughenour’s office, library, and jury room, as well as the holding cells outside the courtroom.

We are so grateful to Michael Guadagno for all of the ways he supported the 8th Graders during this experience. He put forth an incredible amount of effort and time, and his guidance was invaluable.

Check out the list of students’ roles and photos of our day, below!

8A — Prosecution 8B– Defense
Maggie: Opening Statement / Voir Dire Kate: Opening Statement / Voir Dire
Margaux: Direct examination of Samuel Cloud Pilar: Cross examination of Samuel Cloud
Diego: Samuel Cloud
Sydney: Direct examination of General John Wool Alexa: Cross Examination of General John Wool / Voir Dire
Collin: Brigadier General John Wool
Lucy: Direct examination of Junalaska Betsy: Cross examination of Junalaska
Katie: Junalaska
Corrado: Direct examination of Davy Crockett Colin: Cross examination of Davy Crockett
Will: U.S. Representative Davy Crockett
Rachel: Direct examination of Samuel Worcester Colin: Cross examination of Samuel Worcester
Paul: Samuel Worcester
Sam: Direct examination of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall / Voir Dire Cate: Cross examination of Chief Justice Marshall / Voir Dire
Elle: Direct examination of Principal Chief John Ross
Savanah: Principal Chief John Ross Nathan: Cross examination of John Ross / Voir Dire
Emma: Direct Examination of Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
Kate: Cross examination of Governor Lumpkin Justin: Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
Rihan: Direct examination of Col. John W. A. Sanford
Catie: Cross examination of Col. John Sanford Owen: Col. John W. A. Sanford
Carson: Direct examination of Major Ridge
Catie: Cross examination of Major Ridge Smith: Major Ridge
Minola: Direct examination of John Ridge
Tess: Cross examination of John Ridge / Voir Dire Jocie: John Ridge
Ellie: Direct examination of Elias Boudinot
Jonah: Cross examination of Elias Boudinot / Voir Dire Lizzie: Elias Boudinot
Axel: Direct examination of Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott
Ben: Cross examination of Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott Peter: Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott
Anna: Direct examination of Pres. Andrew Jackson
Lily: Cross examination of President Jackson James: President Andrew Jackson
Cameron: Closing Statement / Voir Dire Charlie: Closing Statement / Voir Dire

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Europe World Fair Photos

10:38AM   March 3rd, 2016

7th Graders completed their Europe World Fair last week. Check out all the amazing projects, below! Also, save the date for our 2016 Villa Academy World Expo in the Rainbow Theater, on June 7 from 9:00 am to 10:10 am.

 

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CSI: Villa

2:44PM   December 2nd, 2015

Today, 8th Graders invested the outdoor crime scene in the case of Washington v. Tess Johnson. What the students found was critical to the investigation!


8th Grade Goes to Law School (in a day!)

10:43AM   November 30th, 2015

Michael Guadagno and Joe Shaeffer are here today, providing the 8th grade students a crash-course in the law. This fun-filled day of learning introduces students to courtroom procedure and terminology, the ins and outs of legal roles, and allows them to apply their understanding of the Constitution to the law and legal process. They examine cases – some serious, others funny – as they discover precedent applying to their own cases, and begin to establish their own legal strategies. They leave this day with a firm understanding of their own role, and the role of each person involved in a case, from crime to sentencing. Feel free to ask your student questions about the day, as I’m sure they’ll have lots to share.

Law School officially kicks off our Mock Trial “season” and we’ll be moving quickly toward trial on December 15. Tuesday and Wednesday of this week will certainly be exciting, as we’ll have Officer Lang and Detective Biggs visiting from the Seattle Police Department. Wednesday will be partially spent outside at 8A’s crime scene; please remind your student to have a coat, and possibly extra shoes, for this day.

Stay tuned for more updates!

 

 


South / Central America World Fair and upcoming due dates

2:46PM   November 10th, 2015

7th Graders completed their first World Fair cycle today! The projects demonstrated learning in a variety of ways: they were creative, colorful, and insightful. Please scroll down for photos!

We debriefed in class today, both the World Fair process and the World Fair products. Many students noted that they took risks in this process, which paid off in terms of confidence, fun, and learning. Students remarked that they enjoyed what they learned about their conflicts, their research and writing processes, their time management, and their ability to plan for a large project. Noted areas of growth include using class time well, asking for help, and communicating with parents about needed materials.

Here are upcoming due dates for Africa’s World Fair project:

Map Quiz: November 13, 2015

Research topic and questions: November 18, 2015

Notes: December 3, 2015

Comprehension Check: December 3, 2015

Outline: December 15, 2015

Rough Draft: January 6, 2016

Final Draft and Project: January 12, 2016

 

We will begin our Africa literature circles next week. Students will choose from our list of titles this Thursday (November 12).  Students may choose from the following list, but they may also choose an individual title with Ms. Strand in the library.

You may review the titles of book options here.

We look forward to helping your children learn and grow as students and global citizens as we investigate Africa.

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7th Grade

11:29AM   October 10th, 2014

7th Grade Humanities is off to a great start!

In World Geography, students have reviewed the Five Themes of Geography. We’ll spend the year investigating the world through the lens of this framework. Our focus is on becoming geographers as we learn about global cultures and conflict. To wrap up our unit on the Five Themes, students worked in groups to create a poster for each theme. Then the worked individually to craft beautiful mobiles that decorate our ceilings. Click to enlarge the pics below.

mobile 2mobile 1

 

World Fair Starts! On Thursday, Ms. Rez and Ms. Brooks introduced the students to the World Fair. We reviewed the purpose and learning objectives, so that students understand that by choosing a topic and directing their own learning, they are more likely to invest, engage, and produce. Students may choose any topic of interest focused on a country or specific place in the continent we are studying (currently, Latin America). Topics must have an inherent conflict, but students needn’t worry; Ms. Brooks and Ms. Brooks can help them make just about any topic work. Students received their World Fair planning packets on Thursday, which will help guide them through the process and provide specific benchmarks and due dates.

In English, we’ve been reading Queen of Water, by Virginia Faranango. It’s her true story about growing up as an indigenous girl in Ecuador. Ask your son or daughter about Virginia’s story!

We’ve also been writing. Our focus in October is characterization, and the way authors create round characters through the characters’ words, actions, and relationships with other characters. We’ve analyzed several characters in Queen of Water, and students have used magazine pictures as inspiration to create their own characters. Next week, students will write a Halloween-themed story using their magazine character as the protagonist. Stay tuned!

 

 


11:48AM   February 3rd, 2014

Former President Andrew Jackson acquitted on all counts!

 

On February 27, 2014, the Villa Academy 8th Grade U.S. History students traveled to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle to try former president Andrew Jackson for his alleged crimes against humanity, which occurred in the 1830s as Americans moved west. The specific charges stated that “President Andrew Jackson, with premeditated intent, did conduct or authorize a widespread or systemic attack against a civilian population (herein, the Cherokee Nation), where the following methods were employed: murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and other similar inhuman acts that caused great suffering and serious injury.”

Students spent seven weeks preparing for this trial. Prep included learning the historical context of Native American removal, specifically, the ideas of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. Then, students digested almost thirty pages of primary source material, which ranged from speeches to letters, and from first-hand accounts to Supreme Court decisions. Students selected witnesses, and were given roles; they had to write an essay about how their role fit into the context of the trial, and what evidence from the source material packet would assist them. Students were invited to pour through hundreds of primary source documents, in addition to what they were originally given, to find more evidence to support their case. Once the students were familiar with the historical context, the source material, and their roles, they had to get ready for the trial. This involved drafting opening and closing statements and examination questions, learning about courtroom protocol, questioning techniques, and objection rules, and practicing their testimonies.

The trial lasted for two and a half hours, opening with a heart-rending opening from the prosecution, and a crisp, detailed opening from the defense. Students battled back and forth between direct- and cross-examinations, showcasing both their exhaustive preparation and their abilities to think on their feet. 8B, the defense, focused on Georgia’s role– and blame– in the tragedy, while 8A rested their prosecution on Jackson’s history of violence toward Native Americans. Ultimately, the jury returned a NOT GUILTY verdict after debating the charges and testimony.

The students were incredibly well-prepared. While they script the trial as much as possible, some of the students were ready for a fight. They were able to go off-script when necessary and proved time and again that they knew the case materials inside and out. The gallery held their breath while Major Ridge (Katja Roberts) and John Ross (Leila Lombardo-Robinson) testified about their positions as Cherokee leaders. We witnessed an outstanding testimony from the Defense’s John Marston (Davey Moody) and an impassioned closing speech by the Prosecution’s Milla Zuniga. All of the students were able to convey an incredible amount of information through the trial format. Even Judge Coughenour mentioned that he learned quite a bit from our trial.  This year, students were able to convey emotion and drama as well as compelling — and complex!– political arguments in a way that suggested they have a clear understanding of both the moral implications of the move as well as the legal arguments that might have protected Jackson. We have never seen a defense team dig so deeply into the material.

Judge John C. Coughenour presided over the trial.

8A and 8B impressed everyone: Judge Coughenour, court clerks, visiting parents, jurors, Mr. Guadagno, and Villa’s own James Joseph and Amanda Peterson. In fact, the court staff has since said that the kids were incredibly professional, poised, and confident. Judge Coughenour remarked that this trial was one of the best examples of “real-life” learning he had ever seen.

Parents participated on the jury and sat in the gallery of the courtroom. One reported that “the kids were so well prepared and professional. I liked that they really bought into the project and cared a lot about it. On our way over some were rehearsing their testimony and strategizing. I could not believe how grown up they look! It was a really proud day for them, the teachers, the parents and Villa as a whole!”

After the trial, Judge Coughenour, appointed by President Reagan, shared his personal story with the students and parents. He invited the students to ask questions about the law, his career, and his most interesting cases. Later, students toured the Judge’s chambers.

We are so grateful to Michael Guadagno for all of the ways he supported the 8th Graders during this experience. He put forth an incredible amount of effort and time, and his guidance was invaluable. Both classes placed bets on the outcome of the trial with Mr. Guadagno. 8B, the defense, will enjoy seeing Mr. Guadagno in a stunning, trendy outfit that includes blue jeans, a Villa hoodie, socks, and sandals. 8A, the prosecution, will be wearing signs today that read, “I will never make a bet with Mr. Guadagno.”

You can view photos and video in this Dropbox link:

https://www.dropbox.com/home/Villa–Mock%20Trial–2014

(Parents, if you have video or photos, you may also UPLOAD them into the Dropbox. Please do!)