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On the case

UIndy have high schoolers combing the crime scene

It was a bright and sunny afternoon when students from two forensic science classes at Decatur Central High School were led outside to help solve a case. Waiting for them were students from Forensics at the University of Indianapolis, and they had a case to be solved.

The Decatur students were guided through four stations in order to teach them how to conduct a crime scene recovery. The stations were marked off with yellow caution tape, and bits of “evidence,” such as clothing and bones (made from plastic or from animals), were placed in the area. Equipment to be used for each step of the crime scene recovery, such as evidence collection bags or tape measures, were ready and waiting for use.

Searching for clues 

"Introduction to Forensic Archeology" workshop by Dr. Krista Latham's class held for Decatur Central High School students on Friday, April 17, 2015. Students set up four stations: :Systematic Searching and Surveying" by students Amanda Khan and Daphne Hudson; "Constructing a Grid" by students Ryan Strand and Erin Vollmer; "Measuring and Mapping" by students Jessica Campbell, Teal Ketchum and Helen Brandt; and "Evidence Collection" by students Justin Maiers and Kat Paschal. Then everyone went though the entire procedure of processing a mock crime scene. (Photo: D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

“Introduction to Forensic Archeology” workshop by Dr. Krista Latham’s class held for Decatur Central High School students on Friday, April 17, 2015. Students set up four stations: :Systematic Searching and Surveying” by students Amanda Khan and Daphne Hudson; “Constructing a Grid” by students Ryan Strand and Erin Vollmer; “Measuring and Mapping” by students Jessica Campbell, Teal Ketchum and Helen Brandt; and “Evidence Collection” by students Justin Maiers and Kat Paschal. Then everyone went though the entire procedure of processing a mock crime scene. (Photo: D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Under the guidance of the UIndy students, the Decatur students were taught how to survey the crime scene, plot and record coordinates for found evidence, understand mapping methods, and collect and label evidence.

“It’s a great opportunity to get students excited about science,” says graduate student Justin Maiers. “To be able to encourage high school students and let them see that math and science can be fun and can be used for so many things is great to experience.”

The students from Decatur loved the hands-on experience. “There’s so much more to learn about forensics,” said a student in Amy Haywood’s science class at Decatur.

“This seems like a fun career to look at. The students from UIndy know what they are talking about and if they can always learn more, then so can we.”

Haywood also felt that her class benefiited greatly from the visit. “It’s fantastic to have this chance for my students to be able to learn how to process a crime scene,” she says. “UIndy isn’t that far away, and to have Dr. Latham, one of the nation’s leading experts in forensics, come and work with us is amazing.”

Real-world experience 

"Introduction to Forensic Archeology" workshop by Dr. Krista Latham's class held for Decatur Central High School students on Friday, April 17, 2015. Students set up four stations: :Systematic Searching and Surveying" by students Amanda Khan and Daphne Hudson; "Constructing a Grid" by students Ryan Strand and Erin Vollmer; "Measuring and Mapping" by students Jessica Campbell, Teal Ketchum and Helen Brandt; and "Evidence Collection" by students Justin Maiers and Kat Paschal. Then everyone went though the entire procedure of processing a mock crime scene. (Photo: D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

In addition to working with the students at Decatur, FOUND has offered presentations to students at Indianapolis’s Ben Davis High School and also to visitors at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

“FOUND has several goals,” says Dr. Krista Latham, associate professor of biology and anthropology. “One is professional development. It’s a way for our students to meet professionals and tour forensic labs around central Indiana and to teach forensic concepts to the community. We do a lot of community events where we educate students and adults about what a forensic scientist can do and what preparation you would need for such a career.”

Graduate student Marisa Teal Ketchum said that participating in activities like these has great benefits for her future career. “It teaches me how to explain things to others,” she says. “There are so many learning styles, and though we can use fancy scientific words when we are working with our classmates, we have to be able to explain in a much simpler way when talking to high school students. We want them to understand the field, and spark their interest.”

Latham says that FOUND, like many student organizations on campus, is essential for students’ professional development. For example, those involved in FOUND can put on their résumés that they assisted in teaching in the particular field.

Taking advantage of opportunities such as these can help students learn about their intended career and make them stand out in their job interviews.

“We are always looking for opportunities for outreach,” says Dr. Latham. “The schools get excited because they have guest speakers coming in, but I look forward to it because I really see how it benefits our students.

“It makes them better public speakers, and learning to teach it to others means they have to learn and know it even better themselves.”

—Kylee Crane ’17