Eighth-graders at Cortez Middle School will hold mock trials at the Montezuma County Combined Courthouse on March 8 and 12 to cap a study of genocide.
The classes, led by eighth-grade language arts teachers Lissa Lycan and Katherine Freeman, have been studying the Holocaust this semester.
According to Lycan, the students have been working on language skills while researching for their mock trial.
Students have been assigned a current or historical event that could be considered genocide, and are preparing supporting and opposing arguments.
The teachers chose four cases, including the current Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. The students will research and argue whether those events should be considered genocide.
“Clearly they are all horrible things that happened in history, there is no question about that,” Lycan said. “The question is whether or not they fit the definition of genocide, which is something that real, very smart people argue every day currently, so it is a real-life situation.”
Students will prepare until the dates of their mock trials in March. Lycan and Freeman are looking for anyone with personal testimonies about genocide or anyone with courtroom and law experience to speak to their classes.
They are also looking for community volunteers to be the jury in the mock trials.
Lycan was inspired to explore the topic after presenting a study last year of American expansion in the West and its role in Native American history.
“I had them use that evidence to come to their own conclusions about whether the history of westward expansion in this country could be considered a genocide, which of course is an argument that is very close to home, and it was one of the most fascinating days spent in my classroom,” Lycan said.
She said she felt the students were engaged in the arguments, and their eyes were opened by the experience last year.
“It allowed my students to understand that genocide happens everywhere at all times with all kinds of people,” Lycan said. “I decided to expand the mock trial and include all these other events so that we could understand how widespread this problem is.”
To get involved, contact Lycan at firstname.lastname@example.org.