Investigating Forensic Science at Shadow Ridge High School
Classroom to Crime Scene
Forensic Science teacher, Robert Stahlke and his school district integrated Forensic Science into the Shadow Ridge High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program in 2015. The Forensic Science Program aims to expose students to the procedures and practices involved in collecting evidence and the investigation process.
Stahlke’s classroom mimics an actual forensic lab, where students conduct investigations based on planted evidence. Every detail of an investigation is thought out to make the crimes seem as real as possible. “I try to bring in the classroom materials that are actually being used in either the crime scene investigation field or in the crime lab. Everything from the collection bags and evidence sealing tapes, to the laboratory equipment used in the lab.”
When simulating investigations, Stalke divides his classes into three levels based on grade year. From there, each level has a role within an investigation. For example, third-year students create the crime scenes and act as project managers. First-year students are tasked with collecting evidence and investigating the crime. Second-year students perform forensic lab operations and analyze the evidence collected and run comparisons.
As a way of motivation, students can earn achievement badges. Similar to an ID badge that those in the profession wear to display their clearance, the badges are awarded to students who do an exceptional job in the class.
“I want my students to be proud to be a part of something,” says Stahlke “and continue on in a program that teaches discipline, work ethic, how to be a good employee, what it takes to work toward a goal that can only be reached through years of preparation and practice, as well as what it means to be a productive citizen of society.”
Shadow Ridge students working in mock crime scenes and speaking with industry professionals
Tracing the Evidence
The integration of iCEV into the Shadow Ridge forensic program is a contributing factor to the success of the program.
Stahlke explains,“iCEV teaches students the processes involved in crime scene investigation, the tests involved in the crime lab, the jurisprudence side of investigation and how forensic sciences plays a role in court.”
Fascinating topics like autopsy, arson and even blood spatter are both intriguing to students and relevant to the career field.
“My favorite iCEV lesson has been Ballistics! Learning about the trajectory of the path that bullets are fired from and seeing where they ended up, then tracing them back to where the suspect was located was my favorite,” says senior Ryan Dompier.
The students are taking notice of how iCEV is helping them master course content. “I like the interactive activities on iCEV,” says freshman Alexis Peltzer-Harding. “Sitting in my seat and taking notes doesn’t tend to grab my attention, so the activities keep me interested in the course.”
Giving students access to the curriculum outside of the classroom ensures students acquire the knowledge of their forensic curriculum is a helpful element of iCEV.
For sophomore Bethany Cooper, interactive activities are useful for checking understanding of the content covered in class. “Completing activities allows me to study up on the things I didn’t understand before. They are also good for breaks from school, like long weekends, as a refresher to use at home the day before returning,” says Cooper.
Using iCEV not only helps students understand the ins-and-outs of forensics, but also prepares them for their state assessments. Stahlke compiles iCEV materials into a study guide for his third-year forensic students as preparation for the state exam.
Shadow Ridge students working with ballistics
iCEV’s multimedia curriculum is developed with the help of the nation’s leading forensic scientists. Information is presented by these industry experts in order to demonstrate a realistic view of careers within the forensic science industry.
Similarly, Stahlke recruits industry professionals to speak to his students about what it takes to make it in their professions. A forensic scientist from Michigan State University, local investigators from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, and a DNA specialist from Perez Forensics are just a few of the professionals who have made their way into Stahlke’s classroom.
Senior Quinton Maxwell believes the guest speakers have given him a better understanding of the profession, “I’ve learned that a career in CSI is not what it seems like on television.”
The forensic science industry is a selective field. “Employers in this industry want individuals that are highly proficient in their content,” explains Stahlke. “They need to be self-starters and take initiative. As with any science profession, accuracy and attention to detail are key to be successful.”
CTE programs like Shadow Ridge’s forensic science program give students an added advantage as they enter the industry. In fact, two of Stahlke’s students were chosen to be part of the competitive Las Vegas Metro Police Department Explorers Program. “They had the upper-hand in being selected because they were getting exposed to the profession at school,” says Stahlke.
Freshman Manzanita Spendlove values the experience she’s gained from the course, “This course is giving me the experience of working at a job, especially one in the forensics field,” she says. “If I need to take a forensics course in college I will already be a little ahead of the game, or at least have a grasp on it, rather than not knowing anything at all.”
Shadow Ridge students in their interactive forensic lab
Forensics is Forever
Teaching through real-world scenarios—with the help of iCEV—helps make the Shadow Ridge program successful, but there is also an influential teacher who is making a difference in the lives and futures of his students.
“In my class I try to give my students a sense of ownership,” says Stahlke. “They are the ones I do this for and they are the ones that give me motivation. The things they experience and create help the positive image the program has in the school, community and the district.”
“Mr. Stahlke’s dedication and time with the program really shows he cares,” says Alicia Sisomphou, a freshman at Shadow Ridge. “He makes up cool crime scenes and activities, making learning hands-on. I highly respect him and will remember him in my future success.”
Stahlke and the Shadow Ridge High School Forensic Science Program send students out into the world with skills that they will use regardless of their profession. The program’s focus on engagement and interaction helps students develop critical thinking, teamwork and organizational skills they will use regardless of their chosen career path. These students also gain a true understanding of the forensic science industry that no TV show could match.
Stahlke prepares his students for the forensic industry through hands-on learning
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