July 13, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Class transforms students into super sleuths
Entering a school science laboratory July 1, students stumbled upon a gruesome scene at Skyline High School.
A man was found lying face down on the ground near a microscope table. He had stab wounds in his back and a knife was just feet away.
But instead of calling 911, students began processing the scene.
The mock crime scene was part of the first weeklong summer Crime Scene Investigation and Forensics Workshop, designed to engage middle and high school students.
“It explores the use of Internet tools, basic math and science at variety of levels. It lets the kids go as far as they want,” teacher Chuck Krieble, a retired Redmond police commander, said. “I’m not a rocket scientist, but some of these kids are, and they enjoy it.”
The workshop developed from Krieble’s popular criminology classes at Skyline, which he began in 2004. The classes for high school students cover all facets of the criminal justice system, from police to forensics to court trials.
“It’s a very broad-based program,” he said. “It appeals to students on a variety of levels.”
Some students who are taking advanced level sciences “like to analyze the blood spatter,” he added. “Other students are the types that like to get their hands dirty, digging in the soil and taking casts.”In all, 15 students from the Issaquah School District’s middle and high schools joined the class June 28 – July 1, which focused on the basics of evidence collection and forensics analysis that professionals use in the field.
The workshop also debunked myths portrayed in popular television series, like “CSI: Las Vegas” and instead allowed students to see what actual professionals have at their disposal.
“I really like the show CSI. I thought that was real. I find that in reality, it’s nothing like that. They don’t carry guns in real life,” Skyline ninth-grader Anders Gelle said. “It’s a lot of science and I’m not the biggest science fan, but it was still fun.”
Throughout the week, students learned how to diagram a crime scene, which involved sketching and measuring distances to pieces of evidence.
Students also learned different types of evidence collection techniques, like collecting hair and fiber evidence, and taking bite-mold impressions, and learned about the human skeleton, body parts and injuries, which are analyzed by forensic anthropologists.
They also learned how to take, lift and identify fingerprints and footprints, and bite molds and dental records.
The school’s computer lab briefly turned into a witness identification and facial reconstruction lab, too.
Using an older version of police facial-composite software, students interviewed witnesses, who had been given photos of suspects to describe, to get a suspect description.
Interviewers asked the witnesses to give eye shape, cheek, mouth and nose descriptions, and details about their hairstyle, facial hair and weight to make a computer-generated face.
“It’s hard, because you don’t actually know what he looks like. So it’s all on what someone else is saying,” Pacific Cascade Middle School eighth-grader Daniel Steck said.
Though he listened attentively, he said he was still off on a few traits, proving how witness descriptions can be altered by interpretations of other people.
“I had something in my mind from what she described, but I didn’t know what his image really looked like,” he said, holding the photo of the suspect.
“My mom told me about the class and it sounded really cool,” Pacific Cascade Middle School seventh-grader Taylor Gwinn said. “We have to solve a who-done-it case, where a crime happens and we have to work together to use all the tools we’ve learned this week.”
The final crime scene with the body in the laboratory was created in two different rooms, allowing each team of students to use techniques they’d learned throughout the week.
Sealing off the area, the students took it one step at a time, sketching, collecting, hypothesizing and analyzing their evidence, eventually matching it to suspects in their database — two of the workshop’s assistants, Skyline students Allie Knechtel and Jade Mitchell.
“It really prepares them for the world of work,” Krieble said. “In school, there are limited experiences to work in groups. But here, this job and this project, is dependent on each member of the group doing his or her role.”
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.