Case closed...

20th January 2006 at 00:00
A murder scenario can provide a real-world context for scientific analysis.

Gill Brown explains how

"It's like you see on Silent Witness," said Rhys, 13, referring to the popular television forensic science drama. "I always wondered about the stuff they use and now I know." He was busy matching a series of fingerprints to the sample his team of five had taken from blank betting slips found at the scene of a crime - in this case an imaginary but gruesome incident occurring just behind the school. Earlier, they had learnt how to dust for fingerprints with aluminium powder and, just as importantly, how to take and document each other's prints, rolling the finger from left to right on the record form.

CSI Workshops had been invited to run this full-day event at Debenham C of E High School in Suffolk which recently acquired specialist science status.

The exercise was the penultimate stage of a murder drama in which the whole of Year 8 was taking part (see box, right). "We're keen for students to connect with the world of work," said science co-ordinator Sarah Stokes.

"Year 8 will be the first to take GCSEs alongside AS-levels in Year 11, and a day like this would make a brilliant basis for the 21st-century science case studies module."

In addition to fingerprinting, the programme included a thorough safety grounding and practical examination of blood spattering, footprint casting and other crime scene practices. Tina French, who manages CSI Workshops, was inspired to develop the programme by her own children's curiosity in the forensic science degree she was studying. "They were excited by the finding out process," she said. "So I realised it could be useful in the classroom. It's about science for society and it can fulfil the enterprise criteria at the same time."

The highlight of the day was at the crime scene itself. Dressed in scene-of-crime outfits - a brief moment of fashion crisis for some - and armed with the basics of collecting, the teams got to work, bagging up and recording. After comparing all the evidence, each group announced the name of the prime suspect.

The day caught everyone's imagination. "It could convince you to be a detective," said Rhys. His classmate Lisa was equally enthusiastic "I thought science was boring till today. I didn't know that was what they did on The Bill."

* CSI Workshops: Tel: 01947 840668

Hints and details for teachers at: www.planet-science.comwhodunit

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