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JPD Visits Persell JUMP Program for Forensics Unit

“I am the Crime Scene guy. Has anyone seen CSI?” asked Jamestown Police Detective Craig Damon to Persell Middle School students. “When I have a major crime scene, everyone turns to me and my partner and says, ‘What do we need? How are we going to collect these clues?’ and how will we do it in the best way so as to not damage the evidence.”

Detective Damon talked to Persell students as part of the school’s summer JUMP program for incoming seventh and eighth graders with teachers Jayme Genco, David Gee, Lina Scoma, Emily Naetzker, Julie Alfa and Ali Pezzulo. Detective Damon talked to them about his job and showed them the tools of the trade from his CSI vehicle. Students had an opportunity to learn more about what he does every day, the importance of collecting evidence and how they can become a crime scene investigator. His visit was part of a two-week forensics unit that combines science, math, English language arts and teamwork. All three Jamestown middle schools are doing student-centered, project-based units this summer. Throughout all the units, students are taken out of their regular schedule and also receive both ELA and Math intervention with Mrs. Pezzulo and Mrs. Alfa.

In addition to Detective Damon’s visit, students were introduced to vocabulary and a quick measurement lab on the first day. They also listened to Deanna Miller, who is originally from the Warren/ Tidioute area but now works in the Massachusetts Crime Lab, through Zoom. Ms. Miller takes evidence from crime scenes and analyzes it in the lab.  Her presentation focused on forensics, the scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime.

"My favorite part of the forensic unit was the blood spatter experiment. It was also really helpful for us to learn from the guest speakers because they do it daily,” said Persell JUMP student Katelyn Rhodes.

After hearing the two presenters, students participated in a Clue-style murder mystery around the outside of Persell Middle School looking for evidence.  For each suspect, they need to come up with an alibi and motive as well as any evidence that would be pertinent.  From there, students will need to assume the role of a defense lawyer and prosecuting lawyer to argue both sides for their final suspect. When they assume the role of lawyer, students will use ELA standards including: reading comprehension, summarizing and ultimately claim-based writing. Students will also conduct a blood spatter lab, which will hit on math measurements and scientific experiment standards. 

 

“Having the students do project based learning has been great in terms of letting them experience struggles with some tough material and relying on each other to come up with solutions,” said Mr. Genco. “Too often students are asked to work in solitude or with one partner, but this program allows them a ton of flexibility in how they accomplish each task and with whom.  They welcome that healthy struggle when there is less pressure for right and wrong answers and they are not being graded. They are getting real life lessons each day that they can apply throughout the rest of their lives, which isn't always true of standard curriculum. It has been really fun.”

It is important to the teaching team to bring in community members and experts in that field because even though they trust the teachers and look up to them, students want to hear from professionals who do this on a daily basis.  The level of credibility these individuals bring to the JUMP program can't be matched by teachers.

“The teachers are learning as much as the kids when we pull in community members,” said Mr. Genco. “The more local the better, because at the end of the day we can say, you guys are capable of entering these fields of careers and there are many people out there who are willing to make that a reality.”

In addition to the forensic unit, the students just finished up a sports unit that was primarily data collection through playing sports. The basic idea was to teach kids scientific terms such as trajectory, force, and angle and then have them practice sports, while simultaneously running a scientific experiment to change something about their approach to those sports, and then collecting data along the way.  After the visual science portion of the sports unit, students then focused on math including: mean, median, mode and range to crunch their individual and group numbers. 

 

After the forensic unit, the students will participate in a garden unit, which will cover the science standards encompassing identification of pest versus beneficial bugs for the plants and soil. For math, students will be creating equations to determine the number of vegetables or flowers from various plant species. They will also be writing equations that will help students understand the cost versus income for selling produce. For ELA, students will be learning new vocabulary and looking at articles based on pollinators and answering various questions from the articles. The Social Studies portion will focus on the history of societies as they settled into communities and began gardening. The final group activity will be a community service walking trip.