Four classes of 6th grade Geography and World Cultures students recently put Christopher Columbus on trial for the events that occurred on the islands inhabited by the Taíno people in the fall of 1492.
It’s estimated somewhere around 5 million Taíno inhabited the Greater Antilles pre-Columbus contact. Over the next 25 years, under the Kingdom of Spain, through Columbus’s command of the Spanish army, the majority of the Taíno had died from enslavement, massacre, or disease, amounting to genocide.
Each class held a mock trial to determine who bears the most responsibility for these crimes - Christopher Columbus, the Kingdom of Spain, their King, or their Queen. The students assumed roles as the defense, the prosecution, historical figures, and court officials and dove head-first into the circumstances of the events in question. This approach to history education was spearheaded by their teacher, Mr. Hager, as an interactive way for students to learn about the historical events.
The prosecution and the defense examined witnesses and defendants, including Columbus, Queen Isabella, and King Ferdinand of Spain, on the stand. After a two-day trial, the judges deliberated before doling out sentences.
The results of the mock trial were eye-opening. Queen Isabella of Spain was sentenced to life imprisonment, except in one case where she was sentenced to ten years. King Ferdinand II of Aragon was sentenced to seven years, except in one case where he was found innocent. Christopher Columbus was sentenced to anywhere between one year of hard labor to 25 years in prison.
By holding a mock trial, students were able to develop a deeper understanding of the events that occurred over 500 years ago. They learned how to think critically and analyze historical evidence, all while having fun and being creative.
Here are the full results of the mock trial:
|Queen Isabella of Spain
|King Ferdinand II of Aragon