Place as a Key Character in History
Our 10th graders are currently learning about American history through the lens of New York City. A recent inquiry asked students to explore the foundational idea of the freedom of the press through an investigation of the 1735 trial of German American publisher John Peter Zenger.
Drawing on primary source material, the students conducted a mock trial where they re-litigated the trial, which took place in the heart of downtown Manhattan. Working collaboratively, students took on the roles of the defense (John Peter Zenger), prosecution (the English Crown), and jury.
This inquiry advanced a number of key learning goals. Through this inquiry, students worked together to construct knowledge as they reenacted and re-imagined this crucial court case. They also discovered New York City as a key "character" in this historical episode, which served to deepen their relationship to the city in which they live, go to school, and love. Finally, by working together to build the most compelling case in to convince the jurors, students were called on to refine and extend their analytical and critical thinking skills.