Seventh grade students at Morehouse Jr. High recently embarked on a study of forensic science. On Thursday, this study was rewarded with a visit from Claire Shepard, an assistant professor of forensic science at Louisiana Delta Community College.
Shepard spoke with seventh graders who staged a mock crime scene at the school at the end of April. Since the event, the students have been using the scientific method to determine whether their victim died in an accident or met with foul play.
While the exercise has provided an out-of-the-box way to explore science by collecting data, testing it and coming up with a theory, or cause-of-death, it also provided students with a glimpse into a potential field-of-study in college and a future career possibility.
“The forensics program is a fairly new program at Louisiana Delta Community College,” said Shepard. “We started teaching classes this spring, but we're really kicking it off in the fall semester. We're excited to have this program on our campus. We have a brand new forensic's lab where students can get hands-on training, and we're one of the only associate degree programs in the state in forensic science.”
“It's always great to get kids interested in science through something more than the traditional type of science classes that they are used to, and forensic science is a great way to do that because they don't realize they're really doing science when they're out there investigating a scene.”
There are many long-term possibilities for students who study forensic science, according to Shepard. They can have a career in crime scene investigation, forensic pathology and investigating for the court system or work at a crime lab or medical examiner's office. These opportunities are available to all and are pursued by students who, statistically, don't gravitate toward science.
In a 2011 study, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration reported, “Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and math jobs.”
In forensic science, that statistic changes.
“What's interesting about forensic science,” said Shepard, “is that while law enforcement is typically dominated by males, forensic science is dominated by females.”
At MJH, the forensics work and crime scene investigation have contributed to a renewed interest in science class according to science teacher Barbara Gombossy.
“If there is one thing that really captures their [students] interest,” Gombossy said, “it's the forensic science component that we do after iLeap testing. They get completely involved.”
“It's interesting doing this with my classmates,” Nick Jones, a seventh grade science student said, “I feel that we have almost reached our lead in the story about whether it was an accident or a murder. We have figured out the time of death.”
Gombossy plans on continuing with the forensic science program in the future and has heard feedback from prior students who wished they could have investigated a mock crime scene in seventh grade.