It’s easier to engage high school kids in learning if they can relate to what they are being taught — to the real world. Or in the case of the new forensic science class at Issaquah High School, the TV world, as in “CSI.”
This fall, science teacher Tricia Vannoy, started teaching forensic science, which she said is designed for every student — those who excel in science and math, or those who are struggling — because of the intense interest of the class.
“Everyone likes a good mystery,” Vannoy said. She said the class focuses on the science, not the morbid aspects of forensics.
The program was the brainchild of department head Linda Sorenson and Skyline High School teacher Ty Swiftney.
With two grants — one from the PTSA and one from the Issaquah Schools Foundation — Vannoy was able to buy forensic kits for all the students, who number about 95, and are taking the class. Most are juniors or seniors, but she does have a few sophomores taking the course, like Amanda Fawcett.
“I’ve always been interested in forensic science, and I love writing true-crime stories, so I wanted to learn more about it,” Fawcett said.
Right now the students are studying and analyzing glass fragments from a make-believe crime scene. One set of fragments are from the suspect’s shoes. The challenge is to figure out if those fragments match those found at the crime scene.
The glass fragments are measured for density. Then different tests are done in lab to check the refractive index.
Vannoy said as the class progresses they will be working with blood splatters and doing blood typing, where her class might buddy up with the physics class because so much math is involved.
Senior Justin Kim wants to pursue a career that involves science. His favorite class is chemistry and there is plenty of chemistry involved in the forensics class because the students use various chemicals to test evidence.
The kits also include the tools they need to look at gunshot residue. When the students study toxology they will learn about techniques involved in drug testing — and no, they won’t be drug testing each other.
The beauty of this class Vannoy said, it that the students are so engaged.
“It’s fun doing forensics because people really do this,” said senior Jennifer Duff.
Vannoy said the students were eager to figure out who made the threat at Skyline High School last month when a 16-year-old male said he would come to the school with an automatic weapon and open fire in the commons area. Their inner CSI beckoned them to solve the mystery.
“I’ve always loved CSI and Criminal Minds,” said senior Kenna Buchberger, adding that business was also an option, in case she doesn’t decide to become a crime scene investigator.