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1995 The Regents of the University of California


One tool you can use for the trial is the electronic evidence forum.

With this tool, students can electronically communicate with each other, posting insights, ideas, evidence and questions on electromagnetic radiation during the trial.

The "trial" of a physical phenomenon is an interesting form of a lesson. We can thus "try" friction and electrical resistance, inertia and resonance, classical physics, etc. Such lessons are principally aimed at consolidating and systematizing students' knowledge, and at showing that there is a connection between science and real life.

The idea of organizing educational games such as trials on physical phenomena was first introduced by Irina Lanina, Professor of Education at St. Petersburg Pedagogical University, Russia. (I. Lanina, "Not by a lesson alone (Ne urokom edinym)," Moscow, Prosvescheniye, 1991.)Note: The trial format can be used to teach many different subjects including topics from history, art, mathematics, etc.

As part of this activity, students will put the different types of the electromagnetic radiation "on trial", selecting the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, and jury, and learning about electromagnetic energy by arguing the pros and cons of each wavelength. The "Trial" is a format which allows students to explore electromagnetic radiation properties. The different types of electromagnetic radiation will serve as the "defendants" who are accused of properties which may or may not be true for that particular wavelength.

The educational game is organized as follows:

  1. Students are divided into two main groups: defense witnesses and prosecution witnesses. Their homework (started at least a week prior to the "trial") is to find the benefits and negative effects of a particular type of radiation.

  2. The judge, the prosecutor, the counselor for the defense, the defendant (electromagnetic spectrum), and the jury are selected from among the students of a class.

  3. The rules of the game and the duties of each trial participant should be explained in detail some time before the lesson.

  4. To make the trial more interesting, the speeches of the witnesses are to be accompanied by experiments and visual aid presentations.

  5. The real "biography" of the accused spectrum can be made into the public appearance of the "defendant", and the jury should ask questions to specify the details and to try to make the whole process of the trial more effective and animated.

  6. At the end of the lesson the teacher should explain his/her attitude toward the whole process of the "Trial" and stress the most interesting details. A discussion of merits and shortcomings of the lesson can be also conducted during the next period.

Here is an example of such a trial:


  1. Chief Judge (C. J.)
  2. Electromagnetic spectrum (six defendants) (E. S.)
  3. Chief Prosecutor (C. P.)
  4. Counselor for the Defense (C. D.)
  5. Witnesses for the Prosecution (W. P.)
  6. Witnesses for the Defense (W. D.)
  7. Secretary of the trial (S.)
  8. Jury (J.)

Minutes of the Trial:

At the end of the lesson the teacher explains his/her attitude toward the whole process of the "Trial" and points out the most interesting details. The merits and demerits of the lesson can be discussed during the next period.

For further information on this unit:
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"Astrophysics": An Elective Subject for High School Students.

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