|Seminar Students Guide School Kids to Track Down the 'Cat Killer
November 20, 2008
by Emily Matras '12
|Emily Murray '09 (c) helps Tyler Sholes and Isabel Taylor examine evidence with a microscope.|
Blood samples, microscopes, and saliva swabs are common props on the “CSI” television program, but sixth and seventh graders from Davidson’s Community School got to use all three recently in a Davidson classroom. Biology majors in Associate Professor Karen Bernd’s seminar “Forensic Serology” created their own “whodunit” mystery murder for the twelve seventh graders and ten sixth graders to solve, and the murder victim was none other than the Davidson Wildcat mascot, who was slain with a wrench in the Wildcat Den snack bar!
Bernd explained that a large component of the seminar is oral communication, so she set up the project with middle schoolers to give her students practice in communicating what they’ve learned. “The best way to find out if you really know something is to teach it to somebody else,” she said.
During the previous four years she has offered the seminar, students have set up simulations for Boy Scouts and students at Davidson IB middle school. The college students are totally responsible for creating and carrying out the simulation. In fact, they didn’t even tell Bernd ahead of time which suspect actually committed the crime!
To determine the killer, the Community School students engaged in hands-on activities at three stations. Their experiments identified the gender and blood type of the six suspects, and eliminated all but one through the forensic evidence.
“Basically we’re giving kids an idea of what happens behind the scenes of a crime lab,” said Kevin Cook ’09, a double biology and political science major. “The goal is to introduce them to lab techniques to hopefully interest them in science.”
The Davidson students worked on the project for a month. They created a complex murder story to make the experience as authentic as possible. “We wanted to use a Davidson public figure as the murder victim, but not an actual person because we didn’t want to offend anyone. That’s why we used the Wildcat,” Cook explaind.
They took pictures of the “crime scene” at the Wildcat Den, complete with the taped outline of where the victim was found, and the bloody wrench that was the murder weapon. One suspect’s possible motive was anger over losing to the Wildcat in a game of Mario Kart. Another suspected the cat of stealing his Koolaid.
Seventh grade Community School teacher Kristen Patterson appreciated the effort put into the project. “We want our students to get an idea of what real science in a lab is like, and they’ve certainly been able to experience that here,” she said. “Plus, college is always a cool thing for these kids to see.”
|Colby Uptegraft '09 shows vials of fake blood to (l-r) Isabel Taylor and Samantha Jenkins.|
Sixth grader Calli Holshouser was glad that she got to participate. “Being in a college lab and learning a lot has been really fun,” she said. “Doing experiments like this makes me like science even more.”
"And who was the culprit?" you ask. The forensic evidence fingered suspect number four -- a sweet looking, but homicidally disturbed transfer student from the University of Kansas who harbored a deep rage against all things connected to Davidson basketball!
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz