Mock trial puts forest fire scenario to the test

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Ridgefield — Who is guilty of starting the forest fire? Not those two college students, it turns out. During a mock trial, elementary students in Ridgefield's Highly Capable Program took on the roles of judge, attorneys, courtroom bailiff, suspects and witnesses — including two youngsters who, properly interrogated, would have revealed that they sparked the — fictitious — fire by cooking pine cones in a leftover fire pit. Students from other classes were the jury.

"The students act out each role, sometimes multiple roles, so this trial provides additional challenge by causing students to think about the perspectives of people from different walks of life," said teacher Ana Hochhalter. Sixth-grader Nate Scullard-Bender volunteered to be prosecutor because, he said, "I've been told by a lot of people that I'd be a great lawyer." Fifth-grader Claudie Miller, the defense attorney, retorted: "My favorite part of preparing for the trial was coming up with the questions and telling Nate he was going down." In the end the class couldn't quite determine the cause of fire, but failed to convict the two college students for lack of evidence.