CSI: Classroom Scene Investigators

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Triangulating blood spatter. Mixing the formula for molds. Measuring footprints.

This isn’t a TV show. This is Jennifer Hooper’s sixth- and seventh-grade classroom.

Hooper, a math and science teacher at Woodmont Elementary, found a way to get students excited about science.

“They love it, absolutely love it,” Hooper said. “Everyone wants to come to class.”

At the beginning of the year, Hooper asked students what they would like to learn about and sought ways for the material to come alive. Hooper didn’t just want to teach from a textbook. Instead, students read the textbook at home and take notes. Then the class gathers and shares notes.

Somehow the TV show “CSI” came up — and every student in the class had watched some version of the crime scene investigation show. Hooper, a former law enforcement officer, mentioned that some of the stuff you see on TV isn’t quite how it happens.

As the discussion continued, Hooper and her class decided to learn science from crime scenes.

This year marked many students’ first real brush with science. Hooper’s class is starting out slow, doing two to three labs a month to get kids used to tools and the scientific method. In addition to standard science labs that include dissection and bacteria, the students’ labs will cover everything from teeth impressions and measuring bite marks to the velocity of blood dropped from different heights.

Hooper also knows a recipe that mimics blood.

In the spring, all the lessons learned will be put to the test when students investigate a crime scene put together by Hooper. There won’t be any real weapons, but Hooper is thinking of using paper cutouts of various weapons — “Clue” style — so that students can determine the “who, what and how” behind the crime.

“It’s all teaching them about discovery and their environment,” Hooper said. “What a great way to get them interested in math and science.”

All of the experiments relate to the state’s curriculum, but this way, the students see science reflected in real life through a hands-on study, Hooper said.

“If we went strictly with the book, we’d never get anywhere,” she said.

The theme for the year already has many students now thinking toward a career in criminal justice, Hooper said.

The students are working on exploring a career path, and in addition to a few teachers and an air traffic controller, several students want to go into crime scene investigation or a related field.

“Science has definitely sparked their interest,” Hooper said. “Girls are much more interested now in science then fashion design. They’re thinking in non-traditional roles.”

Contact Kyra Low: or (253) 925-5565.

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