Teaching Students About Steven Avery
In recent years, the case of Steven Avery has captured the attention of millions around the world, largely due to the sensational Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer.” As educators, it is essential to seize upon the enormous interest in this case to teach our students valuable lessons about critical thinking, social justice, and the rule of law. This article provides an overview of teaching students about Steven Avery while exploring engaging techniques that can be applied in your classroom.
Background on Steven Avery:
Before delving into teaching strategies, it is crucial to establish an understanding of the key facts surrounding Steven Avery’s case. In 1985, Avery was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. After spending 18 years in prison, he was exonerated in 2003 through DNA evidence. Then, in 2005, Avery was arrested again and later convicted for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. “Making a Murderer” raises questions about the investigation’s integrity and suggests that Avery might have been framed due to his recent exoneration and ongoing lawsuit against Manitowoc County officials.
Integrating Critical Thinking:
Central to teaching about Steven Avery is fostering critical thinking skills among your students. To do this effectively:
1. Present both sides: Introduce your students to evidence supporting the prosecution’s case as well as information suggesting potential misconduct by law enforcement. Encourage them to evaluate both sides fairly and ensure they consider alternate explanations.
2. Encourage questioning: Allow and encourage students to question everything they see or read about the case. Ask them to consider how biases might impact witnesses’ testimonies or officials’ decision-making processes.
3. Practice evaluating sources: Teach students how to recognize credible sources and assess their reliability. Discuss different types of evidence presented in legal cases, including physical, documentary, and testimonial.
Applying Social Justice:
Along with critical thinking, teaching about Avery’s case can serve as an excellent opportunity to introduce social justice themes into your classroom. Suggested discussions include:
1. Wrongful convictions: Discuss the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions and how they impact society. Analyze specific instances of wrongful imprisonment in the United States and explore potential strategies to prevent them.
2. Failures of the criminal justice system: Use Avery’s case to examine other instances where our criminal justice system might fail citizens. Include topics such as racial, socio-economic, and gender biases.
3. Role of media: Delve into how media narratives shape public opinion and potentially influence court proceedings.
Lastly, employ engaging techniques when teaching about Steven Avery to encourage student interest and involvement in class discussions:
1. Group projects: Divide students into groups and assign each one a specific aspect of the case to research and present findings to the class.
2. Mock trials: Hold a mock trial in your classroom based on Avery’s case with students acting as prosecution, defense teams, witnesses, jurors, or judges.
3. Documentary critique: Have students watch episodes of “Making a Murderer” and write reviews or critiques discussing their thoughts on the series’ presentation of events.