Lee High School Students Learn Critical Thinking ... the CSI Way; Forensic Science Class Teaches Analysis and Deduction, and to the Kids, It's a Lot of Fun, Too

By Maraghy, Mary | The Florida Times Union, December 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Lee High School Students Learn Critical Thinking ... the CSI Way; Forensic Science Class Teaches Analysis and Deduction, and to the Kids, It's a Lot of Fun, Too


Maraghy, Mary, The Florida Times Union


Byline: MARY MARAGHY

The baker did it.

Such was the conclusion of giddy, goggled and gloved Lee High School students in a recent forensic science class in which they analyzed evidence in the fictional case of the purloined pennies.

Principal Denise Hall petitioned Duval County school officials to add the course several years ago when the school had a teacher who had worked as a forensic scientist for the state.

"Unfortunately we lost her to a move out of the area," Hall said. "This year we sought to revive it as a fun, hands-on course for students looking for a science elective that was different."

In this critical thinking class, now led by teacher Jon Allen, students explore fingerprints, hair, fiber and blood analysis, as well as crime scene techniques, DNA and more.

During a recent class, students, who were busy filling test tubes with white powders, said the class was amazing and interesting.

"It's a lot of fun," said Jennifer Trujillo, an 11th-grader, who scooped white powder into a test tube with a metal spatula.

Students were seeking the perpetrator who stole the coin collection Allen hoped to retire on. A week after the burglary, "Boscoe Balmer," a construction worker with a sprained wrist and stomach problems, brought to a coin dealer some of the stolen coins in a sack that also contained some white powder. When arrested on larceny charges, Balmer blamed "Durson Dalrymple," a professional baker.

Using a series of chemical tests, students determined the powder on the pennies was corn starch, a baking staple, thus pointing suspicion at the baker.

Had it been epsom salt, used to treat sprains, they may have suspected Balmer, Allen said.

The course has no set curriculum or text book, so Allen has created his own. He said he's having fun and learning a lot himself. …

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