Middle school teacher Christina Sobolak created the activity to introduce students to observations, inferences, and scientific writing.
“Students had to make detailed observations of the scene of the crime, and find clues that would help them identify the murderer and cause of death of John Doe,” she said.
The middle school teachers and the school principal were all suspects. Once students found enough evidence, they were able to request criminal files, file for warrants to search the suspects’ desks, and interrogate teachers between classes with the hope of finding valuable information.
“We encourage teachers to be creative and interactive with their lesson plans,” said Principal Sharon Szuba. “Students don’t learn just from text books but often from beyond the typical lesson plans which we support here at St. Fabian.”
The activity allowed students to think like scientists when making thorough observations. “Scientists also have to look for the small details and think outside the box,” said Sobolak. “It also introduced scientific writing and the investigative process. Students worked in professional learning groups we call ‘cohorts’ to solve the crime.”
Students also had to utilize effective communication and collaboration skills in order to solve the case together. “Critical thinking is a skill I want my students to walk away with when concluding my class,” she said, “and this is the beginning of shaping their minds to see the world through a different lens.”
The project was designed to pique a student’s interest in science.
“It is challenging, but curiosity helps students develop a passion for what they are trying to solve,” said Sobolak. “They are completely engaged, which allows them to learn more content than they would if they were merely taking notes. Working in cohorts allowed them to teach each other, give constructive feedback, and collaborate. All of which stimulate higher order thinking which leads to mastery of content.”