14 February, 2023
Overturned chairs. A taped body outline. Blood–fake of course–pools and splatters along the floor and walls. You’re handed a sheet of paper detailing the background information surrounding the view in front of you. Your job: figure out what happened.
“It’s not your everyday class and it gives you the opportunity to learn about something different,” said junior Taylor Ukstins about the forensic science class at Atholton.
Atholton High School’s forensic science class is one of the many electives offered to upperclassmen, taught by Mr. Clark and Ms. Hanna; Ms. Hanna is teaching the class for the first time. “Forensics is how to apply science to solving crimes. Specifically in this class we learn how to actually process and report crime scenes,” said Mr. Clark.
Ms. Hanna elaborated that students, “[are] observing a crime scene, collecting evidence, going through and doing lab tests to try to solve a crime.” The highlight of the class is getting to solve the fake crime scenarios utilizing multiple fields of science. “It’s like a big puzzle”
The most well-known aspects of the class are the crime scenes that students have to solve using what they’ve learned. “It’s real world problem solving,” said Mr. Clark, “It’s hard but you can win because every detail is accounted for.”
The main goal of the class is to provide students with a way to apply knowledge in a problem solving manner, “not to just memorize stuff and spit it out on a test. If they were to go into the field, to a real crime scene, they would use what they learned in our class,” stated Ms. Hanna.
The year begins by learning how to process a crime scene, then the knowledge is applied to real life scenarios. “First semester is focused on the crime scene process and the second semester is focused on the types of evidence analysis that would occur in real crime labs. And we just layer that onto the crime scenes,” explained Mr. Clark.
What makes the crime scenes so unique is that no two are the same. “It’s not like your typical lab setup,” said Ms. Hanna, “It’s not cookie cutter, because every crime is different.”
While the crime scenes consume the spotlight of the class, students also learn about interesting topics such as fingerprinting, osteology (the study of bones), and different types of physical evidence. One such topic is forensic anthropology, “which is a lot of bones and human remains stuff,” according to Mr. Clark, “We do college level work [in the bones unit] but I walk students through it.”
The class is meant to be fun and educational simultaneously. Mr. Clark described the class as “laid back but we learn a lot.”
Ms. Hanna explained that teaching forensic science is challenging but, “enjoyable. The students are great, they’re very patient because it’s quite different from the other courses that I’ve taught. It’s fun.”
Atholton’s forensic science class is good for any student interested in the field or science in general. Mr. Clark recommends the class for, “anyone who prefers hands-on real world problem solving. Any senior that can use a fun, laid back science class that rarely adds stress to their life.”
Ms. Hanna said that the class is good for students who are “organized, analytical, have good math skills, critical thinking, and problem solving.”
The class is also great for students looking for a fun elective to add to their schedule. “If you’re looking for a chill class where you still learn stuff, it’s a really good class,” said senior forensics student Eulalia Voo.
“Everyone just raves about that class and how good it is and how good the teacher is,” added senior forensics student Kaylie Ukstins.
Another fun aspect of the class is analyzing crimes in T.V. shows and other media. In Mr. Clark’s class, every Thursday or Friday (depending on what day the class rotation is), students watch and analyze the show NCIS. This is one of Ukstins’ and Voo’s favorite elements of the class.
Although the class is an elective, teachers warn students to take it seriously. “To be honest, if you’re not going to at least come in and take it seriously, take another elective…we take tests, they’re not easy, and we do real crime scenes that I expect you to take seriously,” said Mr. Clark.
“It’s not just a freebie class. You still have to earn the grades,” added Ms. Hanna.
Students who took the class and major in forensics in college “say they were way ahead of everyone else in their major,” according to Mr. Clark. Just as a student interested in pursuing a career in psychology may take AP Psychology to prepare for college, forensic students do the same, and it pays off.
Whether someone is looking to have a career as a Crime Scene Investigator or just wants an interesting elective to add to their schedule, Atholton’s forensic science course is one to sign up for. As Mr. Clark summed up, “I want it to be a place where seniors can come and have fun with science.”