Thursday, April 18, 2013

Central Park Five- Issues and Lesson Plans

Curricular connections for the Central Park Five

The recently released Central Park Five documentary concerning the 1989 Central Park jogger case and trial in which five teenagers were interrogated, arrested, tried, convicted and many years later found innocent, raises many questions about social justice, race, and the criminal justice system.
 It could be a great starting point for interdisciplinary class room lessons and discussions

The Central Park Five
on PBS. See more from Central Park Five. The video of the documentary currently shown on PBS is available  at

The discussion about the film with all members of the Central Park Five  is available here

Some curricular connections can be found in these links:

Primary Documents:
YCTeen story "The Central Park Five:Teens served time for a crime they didn’t commit" by Jovon Ferguson
(Note : This story also contains instructions for teens and their rights and what to do if stopped by the police, as well as a link to  their original coverage of the case  and a poem by Ray Santana one of the accused.

I’m wasting time for a serious crime

A crime I didn’t do

A crime that traps black people like me and you

Teens having dreams but not going to the extreme

Peer pressure from friends that will lead you to a dead end

I’m not a follower. I was just with the wrong crowd

The type of crowd that could have left me on the ground

The white man tries to put us down

But we as blacks, could turn that around

I just want to go home and get my head out of this dome

I wish I could disappear and get out of this jail atmosphere

This is not a rhyme—it’s just time.

—Ray, Spofford Voices, September 1991

Lesson Plans

Media/News Literacy Lesson: The Central Park Five
Reading Comprehension, Discussion, and Written Response (some based on archival articles)

Presumed Guilty: Protecting the Accused  (Grades 6-12)
(In this lesson, students will analyze a criminal case in Mexico involving an innocent man convicted of homicide. Students will identify and explain the protections for the accused that are outlined in the United States Constitution and infer how such protections might have affected the case in Mexico.)

What Happens Inside Prison?- Lesson Plan ( High School)
(Three student readings offer a case study of what happened to one mentally ill prisoner; a summary of a critical report on America's prisons; and some additional facts and figures. Discussion questions, a writing assignment, subjects for further inquiry and suggestions for citizenship activities follow.)

To Kill A Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys Trial: Profiles in Courage ( Grades 9-12)
(Two part lesson: Lesson One asks students to read To Kill A Mockingbird carefully with an eye for all instances and manifestations of courage, but particularly those of moral courage. Lesson Two also requires students to study select court transcripts and other primary source material from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African-American youths of rape.)

Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice ( Grades 6-8; Grades 9-12) ( Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice is a series of 14 lessons. Each lesson focuses on a contemporary social justice issue. These lessons are multidisciplinary and geared toward middle and high school students.Students enjoy editorial cartoons. Visual, engaging and often funny, they’re great learning tools. However, editorial cartoons can be challenging because they often require a lot of prior knowledge. These lessons provide strategies for using what students already know to analyze cartoons that may seem difficult to interpret.In addition, these lessons will expand students’ knowledge of social justice issues. They can be used to supplement another lesson or readings, or they can stand alone.)

A Study Guide for Place in the World Prepared by Roberta McNair for CFI Education
Film Discussion Guide of Ken Burns Documentary (Grades 10-12)
A PLACE IN THE WORLD is for grades 10-12. Participating schools are chosen from different Bay Area locations and with as much diversity in the student body as possible. Study guides and clips for all films are provided and sent out two weeks prior to an event for class preparations. CFI staff also visits the schools prior to the program’s start to familiarize students with the program and to answer questions. On the event date: the film is shown; discussion conducted with director or principal speaker; small group break-out with adult discussion leaders for personal reflection.

Rag and Bone Shop Activity
A young adult novel , The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier is about the interrogation of a an introverted twelve-year-old accused in a high profile murder case.
This discussion guide can supplement issues found in the book and highlight similar issues in the Central Park Five case.

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