Forensics turns on science students

Call it the CSI Effect: Forensics classes are turning high school students on to science, reports Education Week.

For educators like (Mary) Hanson, who teaches a forensics elective at Arlington High School, in St. Paul, Minn., the appeal to students is clear. The nitty-gritty of forensics, whether it involves studying a shoe print or fibers from a crime scene, she noted, excites students in a way that much of traditional science often does not.

Ms. Hanson fully acknowledges that “CSI” has led students to her class. But once they arrive, she emphasizes that forensic techniques—fingerprinting, handwriting analysis, or photogrammetry (making measurements from photos, such as a suspect’s height in a surveillance video)—are more precise and laborious than they appear on TV.

Ms. Hanson draws from work (as a reserve police officer), and from the academic content in other science classes she teaches, in her forensics class. Students use geometry, for instance, to study one of the grimmer aspects of a crime scene: blood spatter.

I learned about blood spatter analysis from watching Dexter, a forensic scientist who moonlights as a serial killer. Don’t try this at home, kids.

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  1. Kids really like this class; it’s popular in our building. Once a semester they go up to Walmart for the day and photograph the bottoms of off-brand shoes for the federal database. Their final is staging and solving crime scenes.

  2. We had such a program at our local university a few years ago, but when the reality of the nature of the coursework set in (general biology, animal, and plant), two courses in anatomy and physiology, three classes in chemistry (through organic), math through calculus I, criminal justice, anthropology, the students saw that it was far more work than most of them wanted to do.

    In addition, the reality of the coursework was NOTHING like that which was seen on television (CSI’s don’t carry weapons, generally, don’t make arrests, and don’t drive around in $50,000 cars and wear designer clothes).

  3. Hmmm.  Who’s hiring in this field?  It looks like fun (to this nerd).


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