Category Archives: Salem Witch Trial

And the vedict is….

“All rise. Court is in session.”

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Today the Elementary and Middle School Eagles recreated the Salem Witch Trials.Would those accused of witchcraft and sowing illness in Salem hang or go free?

The setting was 17th century Salem, but Eagles were free to submit 21st century forensic science and psychology experiments as evidence.

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Elementary Eagle Townspeople protested outside.  Opening statements came from the prosecution and defense.  Witnesses were questioned and cross examined.  All written by the Eagles, based on 17th century characters they created.

Finally it was time for closing statements in the Middle School trial. Then the judge delivered instructions to the Parent Jury.

After fifteen minutes, the verdict was in: the defendants were “not guilty,” but asked to close a local bakery that may have been responsible for illnesses in Salem.

Case closed – and the end of another successful Quest.

Preparing for Trial

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Today Eagles prepared for next week’s trial, analyzing a large decision tree that laid out the possible outcomes for accusers and those being accused.  More Process Drama followed, as characters and scenarios were refined (each Eagle must stay in character the entire period.)

Forensic experts (from the last session) submitted scientific evidence; judges ruled whether evidence was admissible, using standards derived from yesterday’s courtroom simulations.

Then lawyers, defendants and experts prepared opening statements and written testimony.  Immediately afterwards, Eagles watched a series of film clips about opening statements, testimony and closing statements, engaging in pointed critique and debating the most important elements of each.

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Then it was back to work revising statements and preparing for court.

Last night one Eagle went home and spent hours on the courtroom simulator, working  through a complete trial.  This morning she said: “I think I want to be a lawyer.” (The world may have more than enough lawyers already, but not enough great ones who believe in leading heroic lives. )

The virtues of the legal profession notwithstanding, it’s a good bet that our Eagles know more about courtroom procedures than graduates of elite law schools, where rough and tumble courtroom antics take a backseat to legal theory.

Next week, we find if the witches hang or go free.

Something wicked this way comes

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Today the MS Eagles were introduced into Process Drama, where after being given a set of rules, they created characters from Salem, who by interacting with each other, write a drama as they interact.

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All of the lessons we’d learned earlier about crowd psychology and game theory came to life in the town.

Later the Eagles played a rich interactive computer simulation to teach them how a real courtroom works, and how questioning and cross examination can be used to convict or free a defendant.

All of this in preparation for next week’s trial, where a real jury will decide if the Witches of Salem go free or hang.

Is it possible to teach creativity and critical thinking?  Not from a book.  But you can learn to solve difficult problems and overcome challenges – if the stakes are high and you are given the right tools — and freed up to “learn to do” as you explore the “learn to be” parts of your human nature and those around you.

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble

This week marks the start of our Salem Witch trials, re-enacted with modern forensics.

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Eagles first played a complex game resembling the Prisoner’s Dilemma, where townspeople were given a series of choices to accuse their neighbors or risk being accused themselves (a game that Federal prosecutors increasingly are using to coerce confessions from lower level operatives to convict higher level bosses – whether they are guilty of a crime or not.)

In eleven minutes, almost every citizen in the town had either been afflicted or put to death – showing just how quickly fear can spread in a mob.

Later, Eagles watched a clip of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and discussed persuasive techniques that an individual could use to disperse a mob.

Next Thursday, Acton Academy parents will sit as jurors as we reenact the trial, deciding whether the witches live or die.