It is an ordinary morning at 93rd Elementary in Los Angeles during our summer Lab School. Parents attend summer school with their children to participate in an experiment where they are blindfolded and asked test different foods to trigger and identify various taste buds.
In another class, Mrs. Farmer’s stuffed animal, a jaguar (which is the school’s mascot), is missing. Students must find the suspect by investigating the crime scene, recreating it then discovering clues to locate the theif. The same thing is happening at Annalee Elementary in Carson, but the missing mascot is a panther.
From footprint and fingerprint analysis to marks left at the scene of the crime, the students participate in evidence collection and other activities that develop their skills of observation and creative thinking to carryout forensic science.
As well, stakeholders, which are a part of that school’s local community, such as local law enforcement, cultivate productive collaborative practices that nurture student personal developmental and academic needs. The Southwest Division of the Los Angeles Police Department visited 93rd Elementary to provide tips on how to solve crime.
Lead teachers and coordinators of our Lab School implemented curricula encouraging students to explore forensics and learn how to solve mysteries and crimes. The approach was collaborative, project-based learning involving student-teacher and student peer interaction. As grade level increases, studying the science of forensics becomes more challenging.
While elementary schools traced footprints, at Marquez High School, one of our Lab School sites, a teacher candidate explores karyotypes with a class of teens who are learning how to differentiate DNA patterns. In a series of activities and videos, students discuss abnormal chromosomes and gene structure. In a class down the hall, students work through English activities converging writing and technology.
Like real-life forensic scientists, students observe carefully, organize and record data, think critically, and conduct simple tests to solve crimes. In the classroom, teachers create interdisciplinary activities dealing with forensic science experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, document analysis, interviewing, data gathering and psychology.
As students enhance their practical skills and fundamental knowledge of forensics, they build cognitive skills, innovative approaches to problems solving and team building. In addition, we incorporate parents into our lab schools to build community, while encouraging parents to actively participate in the education of their children.
Teacher-candidates of our various programs are a critical part of Lab School, as they receive their first classroom hands-on experience. Classes are led by veteran teachers, most of whom are alumni of a CSI3 program.
To date, our lab schools serviced over 5,500 people. It was built as a way for teachers to engage in an experiential learning environment can further develop their skills in classroom management and pedagogical strategies, and students can develop 21st century learning behavioral habits to succeed in college and career.