'CSI: Ellis' program teaches forensic sciences to students
FREMONT - Jonah George watches TV crime shows like "CSI" and "Criminal Minds," but over the past several weeks he's learned that Hollywood makes criminal investigations look far too easy.
"In the movies it's done so quickly, but it actually takes a lot of time to get everything done," he said.
Jonah, 14, is among a group of seventh-graders at Ellis School who have spent two months participating in a project organized by the school's unified arts team called CSI: Ellis.
Seven members of the State Police Major Crime Unit and Sgt. Scott Gilbert of the Cold Case Unit spent the day at the school Thursday teaching students how to use a light to detect footprints and then lift them off the floor; take impressions of tire tracks; use lights to locate bodily fluids; and take fingerprints on broken glass to find a "burglar" who broke into the school.
The unique project incorporated math, reading, and science.
"We thought this would be a great topic because we could incorporate all the pieces plus really do a push on science because that's really what we're working on curriculum-wise,"?said Diane Jackson, the school's physical education teacher who was instrumental in organizing the project and lining up State Police to make the lesson more realistic. "This way unified arts can support the science curriculum with a lot of hands-on stuff."
In the computer lab, the students have learned about forensic science. They have solved crimes using chemistry and have put their math skills to work to determine the rate of speed and other factors while reconstructing a fatal car accident online.
Students have also learned about fingerprinting, taking a polygraph, and solving cold cases with occasional visits from State Police investigators in recent weeks.
Jackson, whose husband recently retired from the State Police, said the project, which wraps up next week, was a good way to expose students to careers in crime scene investigation.
"You can go from being a lab technician and go all the way up to a chemist with a Ph.D," she said.
Gilbert said he was surprised to see the level of interest among the students.
"We're trying to give them some career possibilities to think about. They see a lot of it on TV, on 'CSI' and things like that, and now they can see how it's similar in some regards and much different," he said.
Detective Sgt. John Sonia of the Major Crime Unit said he's seen more high schools offering forensic science courses, but not at the middle school level.
The Ellis School project is unique, he said, because it's reaching younger students.
Brendan Howard, 13, said he liked reconstructing the car crash.
Reese Bassett, 13, enjoyed the accident reconstruction as well, but also liked learning about fingerprinting and DNA analysis.
"They made it really easy for everyone to understand," said Reese, who is the son of retired Fremont Deputy Police Chief Reese Bassett.
Abe Martin, 12, said he never thought about a career in law enforcement before.
"Now that we've done the unit I kind of like it," he said.