This week, 6th Grade students in Mrs. Reardon-Childs's and Ms. Waxman's classes showcased their research, writing, and persuasive argument skills with a day of literary mock trials.
Sixth Grade parents attended the trials via Zoom webinar. The mock trials centered on Natalie Babbitt's novel, Tuck Everlasting, which the students recently read and analyzed, and is about a family that unwittingly becomes immortal by drinking from a hidden, magical spring.
At the beginning of the novel, a young girl, Winnie Foster, decides to run away and witnesses one of the members of the Tuck family drinking from the spring. As a result, the Tucks feel forced to take Winnie with them to their home to better explain why she must keep their secret. Unbeknownst to Winnie and the Tucks, a man who wears a yellow suit follows the group to the Tucks' home. This man plans to use the Tucks and the spring to sell immortality to the highest bidder. One of the most climactic moments in the novel is when Mae (the matriarch of the family), in an attempt to protect Winnie from the mysterious man in the yellow suit, kills this man. After reading the novel, the students realized that Mae's crime was well-intentioned. Mae wanted to keep immortality a secret because she realized, after being exactly the same for more than 80 years, that immortality could be a curse. However, Mae's controversial action was one worth examining more closely.
The students tried Mae Tuck for the crimes of kidnapping, trespassing, and murder. Depending on their role, they researched and wrote detailed testimonies, opening and closing arguments, and direct and cross-examination questions for the witnesses.
"It's important to note that this is not a play," said Leah Waxman, 6th Grade teacher. "The lawyers don't know how exactly their fellow students will answer questions, nor do the witnesses know the cross-examination questions that lawyers will ask, so they have to be ready to respond in character." Laura Reardon-Childs added, "The students have had to hone their analytical reading skills to craft their testimony and thoughtfully compose the structure of their arguments. It's also an opportunity for students to learn about the structure of the justice system while also engaging in collaboration with their peers."
Roya Fahmy, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, served as judge for the trials, and the juries, which deliberated and decided the verdicts on Friday, were comprised of students from each class who were asked to impartially evaluate the guilt or innocence of the defendant Mae Tuck based upon the testimony they heard.
Sierra Canyon School is a private, independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 located in Chatsworth, California. The highly cosmopolitan campus community is reflective of the Greater Los Angeles area and the world at large. Students are empowered to realize their greatest creative, ethical, intellectual and physical promise through small class sizes, a diverse student-teacher culture and a family-like environment.