Students in a Center Grove class studied maggots to see if they could tell how long a pig had been dead.
Upcoming lessons for forensics class students include studying blood spatter to see how a crime may have occurred. They also are learning how to properly bag and label evidence at a crime scene.
This is the second year for an in-depth forensics class at Center Grove High School that covers subjects such as fingerprint analysis, DNA and crime scene investigation.
Nearly 60 students are taking the class as a science elective on their path to study forensics in college or work in law enforcement or the medical field. Other students take the class to get an elective science credit or out of curiosity about the topic.
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“It kind of gives me a new area of medical I could go into,” said Melanie Shea, a senior in the class.
The idea of the forensics class is to give students exposure so they can decide if the career path might be one they would like to pursue. And the class helps strengthen the school’s STEM programming, which is a focus across the district, forensics teacher Danielle Myers said.
Thirty students took the class during its pilot last year. The subject was popular enough to fill two class periods and some students were turned away, although mostly because they lacked prerequisites such as biology and chemistry. Basic understandings of subjects taught in those classes are critical to the forensics class, Myers said.
Now that the class is attracting so many students, Myers is seeking to get the class in the college dual credit program that would give students both college and high school credit for taking the class.
“If we can get them that early college, that is something we need to make happen,” she said.
And Myers is hoping to get a dead animal farm on the school’s campus, so she could have a place to bring donated animal cadavers for the students to study, she said.
Currently, she drives a few hours away from the Center Grove area to pick up dead pigs. She uses the animals for students to study multiple subjects in forensics. Studying the bugs that are drawn to the animals can teach students how to tell how long the animal has been dead. And Myers will add wounds to the cadavers for an assignment to figure out how the wound was caused.
Most of the class supplies are funded by Center Grove Education Foundation grants. Those grants have bought the class new microscopes for students to study dead bugs. And the grants funded a place to hold maggots. Studying those bugs is also a key to finding out how long ago something died, Myers said.
“It is something that is very new and different from other subjects,” she said.
Myers pitched the class after taking graduate school courses in forensics and decided that students at Center Grove could use some of the skills that could come out of a forensics class, she said.
“I loved all of those classes,” said Myers. “I just knew our students would love it.”
She was responsible for building the curriculum she needed nearly from scratch. She purchased criminal-justice type curriculum and scoured education websites for ideas and got ideas from specific educational forensics websites.
The class is also a starting point to other career fields and learning these skills could reinforce what students thought they wanted to study in college. And the skills used in the class can fire up critical thinking skills, said Myers.
“You have to put the pieces together in the sequence of events,” she said. “It’s like building a puzzle every day in class.”