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Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

John ScopesMonkey Trial offers insights into American history topics including regional differences, community standards in developing teaching curricula, the separation of church and state, freedom of speech, the judicial system, the media's impact on court cases, the reasons for individual or regional economic success, great speeches and the art of oration. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: history, economics, geography, and civics. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.

History | Economics | Geography | Civics

1. View the images in the Monkey Music feature and the Gallery. Then create two cartoons about the Scopes Trial or the continuing controversy regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools. One cartoon should represent a pro-evolution viewpoint; the other should represent an anti-evolution viewpoint. Both cartoons must demonstrate respect for opposing points of view.

2. Read biographies of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. Then choose a partner and write the dialog of a conversation that the two men might have had after the conclusion of the Scopes Trial. They might discuss their respective strategies in the trial, their views regarding the trial's outcome, and each man's expectation of how the issue of teaching evolution would be handled around the country after 1925. When your dialog is complete, perform it for the class.

History | Economics | Geography | Civics

1a. Read about the site of the trial: Dayton, Tennessee. Explain why certain business leaders in Dayton thought having a trial over evolution in the town would benefit the town economically.

1b. Countless other communities have held public events to bring attention -- and, they hope, prosperity -- to town. Find an example of such an effort that your community (or a neighboring community) has made or still makes, and create a poster about it. The event could be a parade, festival, or contest; it might also be the creation of a permanent site such as a museum or historical monument. The event could be sponsored by the local government itself or by a local civic or business organization. If the event is held regularly, you might prefer to attend it and prepare a video presentation on the event instead of creating a poster; the video could include a brief interview with one of the organizers of the event.

2. Read about the trial as a folk event and the WGN radio broadcast of the trial. Since the Scopes Trial, fears have grown that excessive publicity can create a "circus atmosphere" and turn a trial from a search for truth into a profit-driven media event. Examples of trials that have gained enormous public interest include the Lindbergh kidnapping of the 1930s, the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial of the 1940s, the Rosenberg spy case of the 1950s, and the Rodney King beating and O. J. Simpson murder trial, both of the 1990s. The teacher can divide the class into five groups and assign each group one of these trials. Each group should give a report to the class on the major events and issues of the trial, the trial's outcome, and the group's judgment on whether the publicity surrounding the trial helped produce an unjust verdict.

History | Economics | Geography | Civics

1a. William Jennings Bryan gained national fame as the Democratic candidate for president in 1896; he also was the Democratic candidate in 1900 and 1908. For each of these three elections, create a map showing the states Bryan won. (Maps of these elections are available on the Web.) What similarities do you see in the states Bryan carried in the three elections?

1b. How might the information in these maps help you predict how the people of Dayton, Tennessee, would likely respond to Bryan during the Scopes Trial?

2. Review a report (in PDF format) on recent developments in various states about the teaching of evolution. (This report is one of the links on Prof. Douglas Linder's Web site, Exploring Constitutional Conflicts: The Evolution and Creationism Controversy.) Using a map of the United States, color the states mentioned in the report. What conclusions can you draw from the map?

History | Economics | Geography | Civics

1. As the film notes, one reason Bryan opposed evolution was his view that it was linked to "Social Darwinism," the belief -- which Darwin did not share and which has been discredited -- that certain differences among people (such as their degree of economic success) can be explained by natural selection. Read a biography of William Jennings Bryan, in which Bryan contrasts what he saw as Darwinism's "law of hate" with Christianity's "law of love." Use the library and the Web to find out more about Social Darwinism and Herbert Spencer, a leading proponent of the theory. Then hold a class debate on the following topic: The United States economy is based on competition among businesses, and the government generally doesn't step in to protect the losers in this competition from going bankrupt. Yet the government does step in to protect people who "lose" the competition for wealth -- in other words, the poor -- by providing them with various kinds of assistance for food and shelter. Is the government right to treat businesses and individuals differently?

2. Read the interview with Stephen Lucas and the excerpt from Peggy Noonan's book on public speaking. Keeping in mind their views on what makes a great speech, select a speech (or portion of a speech) that you consider great and read it to the class. It could be a public address or part of a private conversation; the speaker could be a historical (or present-day) figure or a fictional character in a story or novel. After you have read the speech or excerpt, tell the class why you chose it. You must provide examples of what you liked about both the language and the message of the speech. Class members can provide comments or critique about each selection and vote for their favorites.

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