Students learn crime scene investigation in high school program


NEW PALESTINE — Dressed in long white lab coats and protective safety goggles, New Palestine High School senior Kenzi Wells and lab partner, junior Leah Bare, carefully placed the drops of plasma on the sheet of paper for a diabetes analysis.

“These are blood samples,” Wells said.

The students looked like forensic scientists, and in a way, they are.

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They’re trying to figure out the answer to a tough medical question: What killed Anna Garcia? She’s a fictional victim whose death is a mystery, one students must solve.

Enrolled in Project Lead the Way, a national curriculum-based bio-medical class, the students have become crime scene investigators and hope to figure out what killed Anna Garcia through investigative experiments. It’s a class designed to prepare students for medical classes in college and the medical field.

“There is not one day in this class where we are sitting and taking notes,” Wells said. “I feel like we are in the lab every single day.”

That’s exactly why educators wanted the class to be taught in the district. They say it’s a program they’ve wanted to offer students for years now — a fun, exploratory bio-medical class that allows students to become real medical scientists through experiments.

Principal Keith Fessler and district curriculum director Rhonda Peterson brought the class to the district.

“It’s the hands-on, project-based, real world experience that we liked,” Fessler said. “The students are really solving this mystery and that is neat.”

To get the class started, district officials had to fill out an application and qualify for a $35,000 grant through the state of Indiana. Officials from Greenfield-Central High School, which already had the program, helped in the process, Fessler said.

“We found out right around the first of the year that we got it, and at that point we had to find a teacher to teach it,” Fessler said.

He turned to long-time school biology teacher Darlene Seifert to launch the first year of the four year program. She went to training this past summer and then used the grant money to purchase the equipment and supplies needed.

“We’ll work on trying to figure out what killed Anna all year,” Seifert said. “And the beauty is, I don’t even know.”

Seifert said bringing the class to the district was vital once district officials realized just how many students head to college to study some kind of medicine.

“This is tailored to those kids who want to pursue a career in medicine, but not necessarily doctors or nurses,” Seifert said.

Nearly all the work is done in class through experimentation, Seifert said.

“One of the things that is neat about the program is they try to make it as real life for the students as they can,” Seifert said. “It’s so easy to teach it when the kids are excited and want to learn.”

The students are pushed to read the directions and figure out the process of how to find the answers on their own through experimentation and analysis.

“When I chose this class I definitely thought of ‘CSI,’” junior Alie Brown said. “We’ve done blood analysis and finger printing and all kinds of stuff.”

For junior Madison Pelc, who plans to go into the medical field, this was the ideal class.

“This is pretty much the only class that is close to what I want to do,” Pelc said. “This class makes me feel like I am actually part of the medical field.”

While the students don’t quite know exactly how Anna Garcia died just yet, junior Lizzy Kleyn is certain of one thing. She said future students who take the class will love it.

“I’d say if you’re a younger student, take this class,” Kleyn said.