Instructor Activities & Assignments


The 13 modules are designed to be used singularly or in groups within existing courses, or in the complete sequence that culminates in a mock trial. Each module provides insight into the "A Civil Action" trial and requires an activity that ends in a product that can be used in the mock trial or as an individual, stand alone assignment. Some of the activites are field trips to local facilities such as a hospital, a quarry or outcrop, a courthouse, and require participation by a local oncologist, attorney, or judge. Several of the assignments use EXCEL spreadsheets, trial testimony, and newspaper articles, which are all contained within this website. Links to Overarching Societal Questions and to Key Issues in the Trial are contained within each module.

Learning Skills

A variety of learning skills are developed and/or reinforced in the modules. Some modules require synthesis and writing skills. Others require data analysis and interpretation. Still others require oral communication skills. The mock trial incorporates all of these skills. The maps and graphs produced in the data analysis modules are used as exhibits in the mock trial and the interpretation of these maps and graphs becomes the foundation of writing a expert opinion prior to the mock trial. In turn, the expert opinion becomes the foundation for being deposed by the other parties in the mock trial and for learning how to defend your opinions in the mock trial itself. Role playing is used as a means to prepare for deposition and for direct examination and cross examination in the mock trial.

Background on Health Issues

Module Content Motivating Activities Graded Assignments
1 Timeline of events and listing important scientific issues; Module Overview Read and discuss book, identify key scientific issues Construct timeline of contamination events
2 Hematology, leukemia types and treatment, cancer clusters; Module Overview Trip to local hospital or medical center Cancer clusters as random spatial events

Assembling the Evidence

Module Content Motivating Activities Graded Assignments
3 Construction of cross sections; Module Overview Trip to local aggregate quarry, landfill, clay pit 3-D view of aerial photos, Geologic cross sections
4 Contouring groundwater levels; Module Overview Trip to local wellfield, measure water levels Potentiometric surfaces and profiles, flow lines, and travel times
5 Groundwater flow to municipal wells G and H; Module Overview Trip to local wellfield, measure hydraulic conductivity with slug test Shapes of cones of depression, superposition
6 Flooding of Aberjona River; Module Overview Local USGS gauging stations, measure Q flood recurrence intervals, land use challenges
7 Induced infiltration of river water to wells G and H; Module Overview Local wellfield near river, measure Q Gauging streamflow gain and loss
8 Movement of TCE and PCE to wells G and H from Beatrice and Grace; Module Overview Computer demo of contamination transport TCE and PCE arrival times, concentrations

Prepare and Perform Mock Trial

Module Content Motivating Activities Graded Assignments
9 Presenting expert testimony as a written opinion, during deposition and in trial; Module Overview Role playing: attorney and witness, direct and cross examination Read trial excerpts from experts' testimony
10 Deposition of plaintiffs' and defendants' experts; Module Overview Student depositions Read all depositions, coach attorneys as to testimony
11 Trial procedures, design and preparation of trial exhibits; Module Overview Visit county courthouse Rehearse trial testimony, prepare exhibits
12 Enactment of mock trial, post-audit with jury and judge; Module Overview Role-play in county courthouse or classroom


Module Content Motivating Activities Graded Assignments
13 Remediation of Superfund Site, recent health assessments, research; Module Overview Discuss role of science in the courtroom, society, outcome of the trial Read research papers, view animations