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Crime Scene Investigation: An Interdisciplinary Project for English and Science

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Would you like to stimulate your students' critical thinking skills and show them how interrelated all of the disciplines are in the solution of a "real world" problem? In this interdisciplinary CSI project, students investigate a crime scene and build a case against the suspect they believe is guilty of the crime. They must also anticipate arguments that might be presented in defense of this person and then devise strategies to refute those arguments. In this download you will receive my entire interdisciplinary project, which is carried out in our 7th grade English and science classrooms. You could work with the materials as they are now, or you could easily adapt this for your own school, making it more personalized with your own cast of teachers.

Students are taken to the “crime scene” where they discover that Mr. Navidad, an outside consultant hired to evaluate the efficiency of the seventh-grade faculty, has been found dead by the cleaning crew (you could also just have students study the crime scene photos included in the download if you don't want to make your own crime scene). The investigating officer’s reports give students some of the necessary background information about the crime, but they will view surveillance footage (included) to determine that the only known suspects are six seventh-grade teachers who were all present on campus at the time of the “murder.” Over the next few weeks, students spend time in their science class conducting experiments on forensic evidence gathered from the crime scene. Students use critical thinking to determine how to interpret the scientific data. After playing the role of a forensic scientist, they then play the role of a criminal investigator in their English classes. Summaries of the police interrogations of the teachers are gradually released to the students. They discover that some of the teachers had a reason to feel threatened by Mr. Navidad. Students are asked to evaluate those motives to determine which might implicate one given teacher more than another. In their final report, students must make a recommendation to the district attorney of who should be indicted for the crime. They must demonstrate who is guilty of Mr. Navidad’s “murder” by citing the evidence which they consider to be significant and by discounting the evidence which they consider to be either insignificant or “red herrings.” They must also anticipate the arguments that might be presented by the defense team and strategize on how they would refute their claims. Since there is no one correct answer to the mystery, students are judged on their analyses of the evidence and on how well they argue their cases.

In this project, we have attempted to replicate the “fog of investigation” which surrounds many criminal cases; information comes in piecemeal and does not fit into neat compartments. Some of the evidence is even contradictory; sometimes there are no clear-cut answers, and prosecutors must exercise their best judgment about whom to indict. We are hopeful that this is the best way to stimulate each student’s critical thinking and ingenuity in arriving at a possible solution.

When you purchase, you will download a PowerPoint that gives an illustrated overview of the project. On the first slide is a link to a GoogleDrive folder where you will be able to download 30 supporting documents and resources for the project.

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