Students, (learners in Nea charter school parlance), were assigned a side to represent and had to work together to build and present their cases based on legal precedent and testimony from witnesses – even if they didn’t personally agree with their assigned side.
On November 16th, half of the class presented a case to the “school board” arguing for the inclusion of Intelligent Design (Creationism) in the science curriculum, and the other half opposed it as unscientific.
“Many students across the country study the separation of church and state and the legal precedent for subjects that can be taught in school curricula, but few are able to reenact,” the trial, said Madeline Eustis, Nea Humanities teacher (facilitator).
“This experience was made richer through the opportunity to hold the hearing at City Hall, where our actual School Board meets,” Eustis said.
Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer, volunteered council chambers, and her time, to preside over the exercise.
Also present as members of the mock school board were Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Maffei, and Nea administrator Jana Chabre, among other community members.
Nea learners launched into their arguments, called witnesses, cross-examined each other, and responded to difficult questions from the mock school board. Both sides presented strong arguments and crafted persuasive responses.
After much deliberation, the “school board” ultimately decided that the proponents of Intelligent Design had presented a stronger case and won the hearing.
“The outcome came as a bit of a shock, especially to our biology teacher. But luckily, this decision will not affect Nea’s science curriculum!” said Eustis. “We are grateful to the Mayor, the City of Alameda and other participants for the invaluable lessons this real-world experience provided our learners,” Eustis said.