It was a serene autumn day at Carmel Academy when a group of the school’s seventh and eighth graders were summoned to the science lab to deal with an “urgent” matter.
The students, all part of a forensic science elective class, rushed excitedly to the courtyard where they were met with an unexpected scenario -- a mock crime scene, where poor “Fred” had met with an unfortunate demise.
The students immediately went to work as detectives, making observations, searching for clues, discussing their theories and comparing notes.
The mysterious whodunit was a way for Carmel science teacher Kelly Mulligan to introduce her students to the important work, skills and techniques used by forensic scientists.
Each trimester, Middle School students at Carmel get to choose an elective class to delve into topics of their personal interests. Less formal than traditional academic topics, elective classes range from “Art for Social Justice” to “Yoga, Meditation & Mindfulness” to “Film Study”.
“I am so excited that this class is being offered,” said 8th grader Naomi Seligmann, who has a deep interest in the forensic sciences and hopes to work for the FBI one day.
“The elective not only gives students a window into the skills and techniques used by forensic scientists, but also the importance this science brings to solving complicated crimes and in helping exonerate those who are wrongly imprisoned or convicted,” Mulligan said.
Classroom labs include fingerprint, hair and fiber analysis, blood typing and how DNA is used to help solve crimes.
“I have whorls on my fingertips,” said 8th grader Atara Ivri, who said she learned that there are three types of fingerprints – whorls, arches and loops. “I used to look at my fingertips and just see lines. Now I know there are different fingerprint types.”
Atara said each member of the class examined their fingerprint and determined what type of print they have. They then did a statistical analysis, which matched that of the general population. Usually 65 percent of humans have loops, 30 percent have whorls and 5 percent have arches.
“When we looked at our class statistics they matched those of the greater population which was really cool,” she said.
“The students are learning that forensic scientists don’t work in a vacuum. Different areas of science -- biology, chemistry and physics -- are all connected in crime solving,” Mulligan said.
What is certain to be a popular lab will be when the students will try to solve a crime using all their new lab skills and evidence gathering techniques, Mulligan said. They will also have to learn to work together and be open to each other’s ideas and opinions.
“I can’t wait for the class each week,” said 8th grader Ariela Hope. “Solving crimes is more than what you see in the movies. There is a lot more science than I thought.”