Scopes Trial Activity
The purpose of this unit will enable students to understand:
- how to prepare arguements for a moot court case.
- how the Scopes Trial impacts academic freedom today.
- what constitutional amendments are applicable to this issue (including the Butler Act).
- how this case would be decided if it took place today.
This activity is designed for students to experience a moot court of the Scopes Trial. A moot court differs from a trial in that there are no witnesses, testimonies or cross examinations. Instead, the courtroom will be conducted by a judge, who is responsible for questioning each counsel.
The purpose of this court is to determine whether or not John Scopes would be found guilty of teaching evolution as if it took place TODAY. All pertinent laws and clauses of the 1st amendment must be discussed with students prior to this activity. This information was referenced earlier in this article.
Sample questions are provided for students to serve as a guideline for preparing their cases. The judge (teacher) will render his/her decision based on a scoring system described in the procedure. Allow for two days of preparation for cases, and one day for the moot court.
- Divide students into two groups, the Defense representing the State of Tennessee and the Plaintiff, John Scopes. When assigning these groups, do not allow them to choose their groups. Use a random system to accomplish this.
- Have each group divide into cooperative sub-groups, each with a responsibility to research information pertinent to their respective side. It is helpful for teacher to designate someone as the chief counselor, who is responsible and accountable for delegating jobs.
- Have students access information from the Scopes trial handout (see bibliograpghy), in addition to any resources you can organize about this trial with your Librarian and Social Studies department. Hand out Scopes Trial Information Sheet.
- On the day of the court, divide up your classroom into two rows, facing each other. Position the Judge's seat centered at the end of these rows.
- The following protocol will be exercised during this moot court:
- a) Judge will intiate questions to counsel. See Scopes Information Sheet.
- b) Students volunteer to answer, but once questioning has begun, no student may answer twice until every member of the counsel has spoken.
- c) Judge can allow rebuttal statements at his/her discretion.
- d) Rendering a decision will be determined by the following system:
1 point= each counsel member for active participation
1 point= each rebuttal by counsel member
0 point= each pass or invalid response by counsel member
-1 point= inappropriate behavior by counsel member
- Judge renders his/her decision.
- Students discuss decision process.
Scopes Trial Information Sheet
Use the following questions as a reference in preparing your court case. Whether you are representing John Scopes or the state of Tennessee, you will be expected to discuss these questions in a compelling and comprehensive manner.
The judge will be asking these quesitons in court, and how well you prepare to discuss them will determine the outcome of the moot court. So.....GO TO WORK!
- Can you comment on the current status of the teaching of evolution and creationism?
- Does the taeching of evolution violate the 1st amendment?
- Does the Butler Act affect the teaching of evolution in public schools?
- Is John Scopes in violation of teaching a subject from an accepted textbook?
- Is the Butler Act still valid today?
- If evolution is not legally acceptable to teach in public school, is creationism? What other areas might be acceptable?
- Should community values and interests be considered when deciding whether or not evolution should be taught?
- Who should be responsible for deciding what curriculum is acceptable to teach?
Students will :
- demonstrate their own level of understanding about evolution and creationism.
- assess their own level of understanding about evolution and creationism.
- exercise proper compositional skills
What students understand about the theory of evolution and creationism is often limited. The reason for this is because students have not been given the opportunity to learn about or discuss these theories.
This activity is designed to have students demonstrate their level of understanding regarding evolution and creationism. Pre and post essay assignments will allow students to assess changes in that understanding. Once this is achieved, students can expand their limited perspective about these theories.
- Before the unit begins, assign students the following essay question for homework:"Discuss the theory of evolution and creationism by telling me all that you know about each."
- It is important to tell your students not to access any resources such as parents, books, teachers, prior to their pre-essay.
- After the unit has been completed, assign the same essay question as an in class assignment.
- Once students have received their pre and post essays back, have them critique their own learning by comparing pre and post learning. This is to be expressed in a short writing assignment which answers the following questions:
- What specifically did you learn about evolution and creationism after the unit was completed? If your answer was "nothing" tell me why.
- After answering the question above, can you tell me which theory you gained new information about? Tell me why you think this was so? If your answer was "nothing" tell me why.
- What one thing did you feel was the most important thing you learned in this unit? Tell me why.
- 5) Record responses given by students regarding their own critiques. Then follow with a class discussion over any concerns or comments students may have.
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