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Oklahoma City biology students use science to solve make-believe killing

Capitol Hill High School biology students collected DNA evidence and other evidence from a crime scene — a room on campus that doubled as a laboratory — to solve the make-believe slaying.
by Tim Willert Modified: March 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm •  Published: March 6, 2014

The crime scene at Capitol Hill High School looked like the real thing, right down to the blood-stained white sheet covering the body of a controversial research scientist.

But this “murder” was a make-believe exercise in science instruction.

Capitol Hill biology students collected DNA evidence from the scene — a room on campus that doubled as a laboratory — to solve the crime.

Nearly 400 students, mostly sophomores and juniors, analyzed blood and fingerprints to determine who killed George Martinez, a fictional character working on a cure for cystic fibrosis at the time of his death.

“It was really cool to see them taking evidence and drawing conclusions, which is what science teachers are always hoping for,” said Sabrina Bainbridge, a second-year biology teacher who helped coordinate the Capitol Hill CSI project. “It was awesome to see them mastering these higher-level concepts.”

Bainbridge planted the evidence and came up with four fictional suspects — the victim’s research assistant, his wife, his boss and the president of a Christian-based organization determined to stop genetic testing and research being performed by Martinez.

Students were given a month to solve the murder and were graded on their work, said Bainbridge, who introduced the project to her students last year.

It was expanded to include all biology students after a survey revealed they were interested in television shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” that focus on the use of forensics to solve crimes.

Pieces of the puzzle

Students watched a 10-minute video clip about the murder case and had 10 minutes to make qualitative observations of the replica crime scene. They then read through replica police transcripts and identified each of the suspects. Finally, they analyzed DNA evidence to identify the killer.

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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