Gladstone Secondary Forensics Class Heads to Real Crime Lab

"That's why I started this course, I was really sick of students telling me that they hated science," said teacher Jolene Mergens about why she brought the only forensics courses in the province to Gladstone Secondary school.

"The courses are composed of all three major sciences: physics, biology and chemistry," she said.  "[The students] didn't realize that science could be used in that particular way."

Now her hard work getting students interested and involved in science has gone a step further. Mergens has arranged a trip for the students to visit a real police forensics lab in San Diego to learn from experts.

Nineteen students made the journey to the Chula Vista Police Department Crime Laboratory on April 15, where they expanded their knowledge on various aspects of crime scene investigation.

"They are just stoked at the opportunity to be shown how to do things by officials," she said.  "They like seeing how science is applicable to them."

In class, Mergens teaches the students about a variety of topics including blood and blood pattern analysis, the biology of hair, criminal profiling and forensic entomology.

Many of the students cite forensics as one of their favourite classes.

Grade 11 student Clayton Lee is taking physics and forensics. He says that the latter has more hands-on experiments.

"I feel like in this class, it's more based on labs and trying things out and that makes it more interesting," said Lee.  "Physics is based more on concepts."

Priyanka Prabakaran said she signed up for the forensics class because she watches police and crime scene TV shows and she wanted to experience learning the same crime solving skills.

"I signed up for this class because it sounded cool and I love watching CSI," she said.  "I wanted to see if it's actually what it's like on TV."

Thanks to the new course, the students' interest in science has grown incredibly.

"We offered the course in the second year that I was here, and 90 students signed up for it," said Mergens.  "This is the first year for Forensics 12, but Forensics 11 started three years ago and we had three full blocks for that class in the first year."

"It was really driven by their interest," she explained.  "I would ask them 'where do you guys want to go? What do you want to learn?' and they would tell me all the things they wanted to do."

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