HOMELink to the Lesson Plan

Lesson Description: This lesson will focus on the Scopes "Monkey Trial. The Simpsons episode "The Monkey Suit" will be used in the lesson to get the students motivated to learn about the topic. The episode will also get the students to use critical thinking as the compare and contrast the trial seen in The Simpsons, and the real life event.

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The Simpsons in Social Studies Lesson Plan

Length: 2 days

Author: Brian Adams

Subject: United States History

Topics Covered: Scopes “Monkey” Trial, Evolution vs. Creationism

Overview: This lesson plan can be used to get students motivated to learn about the Scopes “Monkey” Trial by using an episode of The Simpsons. It does not follow the real life story completely, but it can be used as a jumping off point, or as a point of comparison when learning about the actual trial. In the episode, Springfield decides to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Lisa then becomes determined to fight the issue in court despite the fact that her parents, teachers, and community are against her.

Lesson Essential Question(s)

· Why was the Scopes Trial such an important and controversial event in American History?

· What implications did the Scopes Trial have on the rest of society in the 1920’s?

· What comparisons can we make between what happened in The Simpsons episode “Lisa the Skeptic” and the Scopes Trial?


· Pennsylvania State Standards for History

o 8.3.A

· The Simpsons Season 9, Episode 5F05 “The Monkey Suit”

· Viewing Guide

· Graphic Organizer


· Introduction

o Show the students either on the board or on printouts the following picture.

o Have the students answer the following questions

§ From what show is this picture from? Can you name the character?

§ What theme or idea is this picture trying to illustrate?

§ Explain the idea’s or theories show in the picture in 1-2 sentence.

o Discuss the answers that the students have come up with.

§ Be sure that the students have the correct answers before moving on.


1. This lesson should be done in conjunction with a 1920’s Unit. Therefore the students should already have some background knowledge of the time period in which the Scopes Trial takes place.

2. Take a few minutes and review with the students what the main cultural or social characteristics would be during the 1920’s. Come up with comparisons and contrasts between 1920’s culture and Today’s culture on a Venn Diagram on the board.

3. Tell the students that we are going to use The Simpsons to help illustrate the next part of the 1920’s and ask them if they can come up with any other 1920’s references from The Simpsons. Examples (Prohibition, Groucho Marxs, etc)

4. Distribute to the students the Graphic Organizer, and explain what you want them to do while viewing.

5. During the video be sure to pause every few minutes to make sure the students are writing down the appropriate responses.

6. After the video is over, have the students complete the last part of the Graphic Organizer which asks them to speculate as to whether or not a similar trial or situation could occur today and why or why not.

7. Use the student responses from the video as you teach them about the Scopes Trial. Have them draw frequent comparisons and contrasts between the episode and the real trial as you go through. Examples: How did evolution get banned? How did Lisa/Scopes get in trouble? What was the punishment for Lisa/Scopes? Who defended Lisa/Scopes, and who defended Creationism in each trial? What are the key arguments in each case? What was the outcome of each trial?


o Have students reflect on how Scopes loss can actually be considered a victory for the movement to include evolution in schools. Do this in a paragraph response. Try to include examples from modern times.

Link to Graphic Organizer and Viewing Guide are available in the link to the Lesson Plan on the top of the page.