About 130 students in five sections at Ironwood Ridge High School are learning the real-life aspects of crime scene investigation in a school science class.
Maybe some of them will turn their class work into a career.
Like other schools in the Amphitheater school district, Ironwood Ridge has followed suit in offering students a forensic class for science credit taught by Stacey Wilson, along side Oro Valley Police school resource officer Vivian Lopez.
“It’s a higher interest level than, say, other science courses,” said Wilson. “That’s one of the reasons I was excited to start teaching this. It’s a way to get students interested in science.”
At the beginning of the year, students first think of the television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” In this show, investigators solve a crime within an hour on TV and find all the little evidence to tie the murder scene to a criminal.
“In CSI, they always find evidence,” said Wilson. “They always find a fiber, and it’s not like that. And the time frame of a real crime scene takes a long time.”
To help emphasize that length, Wilson showed her students a crime scene, set up in the school’s library, early in the school year. It’s still set up, and will be until May. In it lies a mannequin wrapped in plastic with a severed hand lying on the “victim’s” chest. Students immediately wanted to know what happened at the crime scene.
“Slowly, over time, they realize how frustrating (forensic science) actually is,” Lopez said. “You don’t get the answers right away.”
Day by day, students are learning how to identify fibers, fingerprints and do hair analysis along with the basics of investigating a crime scene.
On this particular day, students stuck strips of Scotch tape to their shirts, sleeves and pants, pulling different hairs and fibers from their clothing. After placing the tape on white cards, they carefully looked at their samples under a microscope to decipher their different collections. Samples of denim, cotton, silk, wool and a few other fibers sat nearby, and there were tiny candles in front of the students. Using tweezers, students held sample fibers over the flame, helping them identify fibers by their burn characteristics.
“It’s a fun science class,” said senior Laura Dinardo. “It’s different than your average punch-a-number-into-a-calculator type class.”
Lopez said the Oro Valley Police Department is behind the class all the way. It allows officers to interact with students and hopefully bridge the gap between the kids and the police department.
“We teach them the actual reality of it, not just what they see on television,” said Lopez. And they hope to spark an interest in forensic science or any work related to law enforcement.