The Carbon Court is IN SESSION

May 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM Leave a comment

80.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide did not enter the skies as a result of the collective actions of 120 8th graders in Orinda over April.  That’s equivalent to:

178,352.14 1lb bags of candy

0.94 of a 727 commercial airplane

80 small cars + 1 Smart Car

20 Hummers and 1 ordinary SUV

The amount of carbon that 1,000 trees would fix in 1 year and 3 months.

We could go on. It was kind of fun to work out the equivalents to make their saving more memorable. Nice math application, which they are pretty good at.

The class winners were decided by a court: The defendants were the top 4 carbon savers. The prosecutors were the next 4. The rest of the class was the jury. Each defendant stated their case and were cross-examined with one question per prosecutor.

A defendant presenting their evidence to the court.

Jury taking notes. Tried to keep the time per defendant to 3 minutes to present, 8 minutes for cross-examination.

Prosecution cross-examining a defendant.

I was the judge – Judge Suzy, like Judge Judy only a bit nicer (tried to find appropriate YouTube clips but wow, not happening. JJ overtly LIKES to make people on her show look like idiots.) I made sure the process ran smoothly and made sure the cross-examination questions were actually questions and not statements or opinions, and that the questions were about the quality of the evidence.

Big realization – a judge is guarding the PROCESS of the law to some large extent, rather than mainly making judgements. So setting up process is what can end up with the society (or class room I guess) that we want. And the “All stand for the honorable Judge ___” etc. is to accord respect to the office, not to the specific individual.

The jury deliberations revealed, unsurprisingly, that while good evidence was noted, and so was bad, in the end, emotional reasons probably trumped logic and evidence.

In their letters to next year’s 8th graders, many students did advise to be sure to show good evidence for your numbers. I really wanted them to make the connection between evidence in a court of law, and scientific evidence.

This WAS worthwhile and was quite fun, so long as I kept my eye on the time and on the tone of the cross-examination. Some students were literally shaking and it was my job to keep them safe.

The jury deliberating.A Carbon KingAnd a Carbon Queen in the Rolly Chair Throne (for the rest of the year.)

Entry filed under: Assessment and grading, Critical Thinking, Environmental Education, Inquiry and critical thinking, The Problems with Oil Project. Tags: , .

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