New Canaan Country School eighth graders took on the roles of characters from John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, to argue the fate of George Milton, accused of murdering his best friend, Lennie Small, during a mock trial last week.
“In the process of reading, class discussions, and adopting roles and staging the trial, students learn to read for content as well as perspective,” says Upper School Teacher Will McDonough. “They're pushed to think analytically and to collaborate...and while these elements are also foundational in thesis-based essays, a trial challenges students to develop an ability to shift their arguments and improvise to connect with their audience, the jury.”
The eighth grade curriculum explores themes of conflict and challenge involving the individual, the group and society. The course's literature also includes Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies.
Students enjoyed the mock trial, but said they also found it challenging. "[As the defendant, George,] I was both rattled and excited by the speed of the prosecution's questions," said eighth grader Huett Nelson of Rowayton.
"It was fun to be in a court situation where you could object, question witnesses, and say that our testimony would be ‘textually evident’ by swearing on a copy of Of Mice and Men," said eighth grader Lilly Krongard of New Canaan.
"It was nerve-wracking how my expectations and planning changed during the trial," said eighth grader Benjamin Herdeg of New Canaan. "The biggest challenge was that the jury hadn't read the book, so our persuasive arguments had to be near perfect."
Upper School teachers Tom Giggi and Bart Fredo will conduct similar mock trial experiences for their eighth grade English classes; Mr. Giggi using Of Mice and Men and Mr. Fredo using Lord of the Flies.