New Classroom Activities from PBS FRONTLINE’S Teacher Center

FRONTLINE Teachers' Center screenshot

FRONTLINE,  American public television’s flagship public affairs series that each week offers incisive documentaries, provides a Teacher Center of classroom activities with streaming video, downloadable lesson plans and web-exclusive resources for the classroom. Among its featured guides, Death by Fire, tells the story of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three young children.

While the initial fire investigation found more than 20 indicators of arson pointing to Willingham’s guilt, students discover in a video clip how a modern fire scientist re-examined the evidence used to convict Willingham and found no sign of arson, leaving the question, “Did Texas execute an innocent man?”  The teacher’s guide includes a set of themes and discussion questions to help students analyze and understand key current events by watching the video chapter and starting a discussion that examines the credibility of evidence used to convict Willingham.

To go further into this topic, the Death by Fire lesson plan asks students to compare conflicting interpretations of evidence from the crime scene and evaluate whether or not the state proved that Willingham was guilty.

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