Who "killed" Mr. Norton?
That was the question for biology students at Minot High School-Central Campus last week, when they became crime scene investigators and were asked to solve the fictitious murder of a teacher at the school using forensics.
Was the doer of the evil deed biology teacher Shonda Bretheim, who commented on the deceased's nice, newly remodeled physical science classroom? Maybe it was teacher Joe Super, who said his relationship with the victim was "a little rocky." Then again, teacher Julia Koble acknowledged that she'd had her own little disagreements with the victim. Perhaps it was teacher Nolan Spooner, who said Mr. Norton disagreed with him on how to teach DNA. Biology students at Minot High School-Central Campus became crime scene investigators last week.
Biology students Jacob Leier, left, and Joseph Audet examine hair samples last week during a CSI lab.
Biology teachers Super, Koble, Spooner and Bretheim collaborated on the lesson and seemed to take delight in coming up with the details of the "crime" that the kids had to solve.
Kids from each class were sent to different classrooms to do either blood typing, hair analysis, DNA testing or ballistics testing. They had to record what they learned during the lab, report back to their assigned group of students and teach what they learned to their classmates. The kids in each group had to pool their information and use it to decide whether Super, Koble, Spooner or Bretheim was the "killer."
The biology teachers said this type of "jigsaw activity" is better than traditional group work because kids learn more when they have to teach it to others.
Students are also learning a bit about the difference between real world forensics and TV-style forensics seen on shows like "CSI." To analyze hair, they had to identify such things as cuticle patterns and medulla classifications. It wasn't simply comparing whether a hair is brown and long. Ballistics required them to look at the patterns on a bullet that had been fired and compare the markings against a ballistics database. The students learned a bit about DNA profiles and how to test different blood types.
It took the teachers longer and was more work to prepare the lab activity than it might have if they'd each taught the unit on their own, but Bretheim and Spooner said they think the kids learned more this way.
"Four of us working together is way better than one of us working alone," said Bretheim.
Kids also ended up learning from teachers other than the one they are normally assigned to, so they benefited from different teaching styles.