IGNITE Summer 2019 - Page 10

Finding evidence for engagement How Forensic Science Took Off at Archbishop Wood Last Spring at Arcadia University, a group of visiting students from Archbishop Wood High School walked into what looked like a living room from any American home. Presented with a meticulously laid out environment, the class knew they had no choice: the place had to be turned upside-down. They flipped over furniture. They snapped photos. And they started swabbing every surface for drugs and bodily fluids. It was everything their teachers could have asked for. That’s because Archbishop Wood science teachers Sharon Hartranft and Steven Waskie have been leading a growing number of 11th and 12th graders through a very hands-on course in Forensic Science. Arming students with chemical test kits, trigonometry, and the real-world skills to start understanding and solving crimes, they’ve taken the program from a two-section elective to a science sensation with over 170 registered students. 1 A Motive for Student Motivation The course’s popularity is due in no small part to Hartranft’s work over the last five years. Starting from the basic structure of her predecessor and the drug-identification material presented in the class’s textbook, she has been deepening and expanding what it means for students to study forensics, with the aim to give her students — and herself — a more interesting and hands-on experience. “I spent my entire first summer before teaching at Wood researching criminology and forensics,” Hartranft says. “I told the kids if the FBI took my computer, they might think I’m a serial killer because of everything I had to look up and prepare.” Armed with material specifically aimed at junior and senior students, she was able to give them an interactive, project- based approach to forensics, instead of one dominated by math lectures. “When you start talking at students, even if it’s about murders, their level of connection to the material drops dramatically,” she says. “That’s why Steve [Waskie] and I are trying to develop a class that is more hands on, more about open-ended investigations. We want students to figure out solutions and engage in critical thinking.” determin ing sequence fracture s in glas s is lys ce ana eviden “I told the kids if the FBI took my computer, they might think I’m a serial killer because of everything I had to look up and prepare.”