When we, my teaching partner Candice Shaw and I, began to plan our “Evidence and Investigation Unit” we thought it would be fun to do it around a crime scene. We used the GEM: “Mystery Festival” to quick-start our story. From there we took artistic license to create our own series of events leading up to the tragic demise of “Felix Navidad”. It was suggested, by one of our teachers, to use actors as our unfortunate victim and “Persons of Interest” in our case. The students loved this.
Once started, we went overboard with the evidence trail right down to a myriad of forensic witness statements and lab reports including: coroner reports (the first was bungled as in the Charles Smith case) and the second report leading to the cause of death as a PMMA, para-Methoxymethamphetamine, side effect – thus slipping in a health lesson. I also grew so fond of my main suspect, I didn’t have the heart to incarcerate him!
Candice and I created a kit that can be used, hopefully, for years to come. The kit includes:
- a hard and soft copy of our unit,
- a large painter’s drop cloth with a body outline, “blood spatter” and footprints;
- crime scene evidence including broken glass, soil samples, hair and fibres (also on premade slides), “mystery powder”, a broken fingernail, and coke cans;
- various desk items including an old cell phone;
- a garbage can and;
- laminated copies of suspect profiles and their statements, crime scene evidence, forensic reports, shoe photos, footprints, fingerprints, etc.
We also added a desk, chair and potted, plastic plant to our crime scene. We set our crime scene up in the school’s front foyer surrounded by caution tape, which attracted a lot of attention, especially during Election Day in our community. One elderly woman thought we should at least save the poor plant by putting it back in the upright position.
The crime scene was a great motivator and our students became very involved in trying to solve the mystery of Felix’s death. They took on the roles of investigators and forensic scientists. They spent hours sifting through and testing the evidence, pouring over the lab reports and working collaboratively to piece together the sequence of events leading up to the “suspicious death” of poor Felix. The students finally arrived at a primary suspect and decided on a charge of manslaughter. We were lucky to enlist the help of a retired lead homicide investigator with the Calgary Police Department, who presented to our classes, answered our questions via email, and provided us with correct terminology.
What’s next … The trial of our accused.
CSS no longer stands for Calgary Science School, but Crime Scene Specialists!