Jose Valenzuela

The impact from The People vs. Columbus resource is multifaceted.

The level of engagement and rigor that this activity can bring about in my students is unmatched by other activities for studying the time period during which Europeans first began to arrive to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Over the years, I have been able to continue to add primary and secondary sources to enhance this activity and make the conversations richer and deeper. Each year, I invite administrators and teachers to observe the trial. Here’s what some teachers have had to say about the activity:

I was astounded at the high level of tasks, thinking, vocabulary, and procedures…It truly made me reflect on what I’ve been assuming is “7th grade level,” and what 7th graders are actually capable of.

It was clear in the proceedings that this was no fluffy activity in which students joked about Columbus with little actual background knowledge. Rather, I observed a rigorous level of preparation on the part of the students, highlighted by them quoting primary source documents from Columbus’s era.

During the full-class courtroom proceedings, then during the Jury deliberation that I observed in the room next door, your students were passionately, wholeheartedly engaged. They referred back to their notes feverishly, conferred with colleagues, and were excited about and invested in the proceedings. During the witness questioning and closing statements, student-generated orations were stirring.

I believe that the way in which ZEP pushes students to understand history through a critical lens has made my classroom more engaging, more rigorous, and has prepared my students to be the types of citizens this world desperately needs.