Trying Teens – Development of the Juvenile Justice System

Lesson Duration

Authors:  Michelle Sale, The New York Times Learning Network and Bridget Anderson, The Bank Street College of Education

In this lesson, students will learn about the court cases and legal organizations that were instrumental in creating a system of juvenile justice in the United States, then present their findings in a composite timeline illustrating the history of the juvenile courts.


Students will:

  • Explore the basis for developing a separate judicial system for juveniles.
  • Examine how a young boy ended up with a lifetime prison sentence by reading discussing the article, “Life Sentence for a Fla. Boy Found Troubling.”
  • Research an organization or court case that helped to shape the U.S. juvenile justice system into what it is today; create posters that make up segments in an illustrated timeline showing the development of this system.
  • Develop a position paper analyzing their own personal views on the juvenile courts and propose improvements or changes to the current judicial system.



The Learning Network provides teaching and learning materials and ideas based on New York Times content.