Forensic science workshop attracts teachers from Sweden
Friday, August 27th, 2010
The fame of the Forensic Summer Science Workshop for Educators at Lawrence Technological University has spread all the way to Sweden, and two high school science teachers made the trip from Stockholm to Southfield in order to attend.
The July 12-16 course was led by Portage Northern High School science teacher Kathy Mirakovits, a nationally recognized expert who began teaching forensic science 12 years ago. Hundreds of high schools around the country have since followed suit in response to the ongoing popularity of several television shows based on crime scene investigation (CSI).
This was the fourth year Mirakovits has taught a workshop at Lawrence Tech, which she said has great facilities and some of the equipment she uses for teaching forensic science.
Lawrence Tech faculty LaVetta Appleby, Julie Zwiesler-Vollick and Jeff Morrissette all teach CSI techniques at Lawrence Tech, and the university also holds a summer camp for high school science students.
Swedish high school biology teacher Kara Barker-Astrom and chemistry teacher Roger Lister are originally from Canada and England, respectively, and are married to Swedes. They heard about the workshop at Lawrence Tech when Mirakovits gave a presentation at last year’s National Science Teachers Association convention held in New Orleans. Teachers also came from Alabama and Kentucky for this year’s workshop, and there’s a waiting list.
The teachers’ workshop covers a wide variety of forensic topics: accident reconstruction, blood spatter analysis, glass analysis, ballistics, fingerprints and impressions, DNA fingerprinting, forensic entomology, crime scene processing and legal issues.
CSI television dramas are televised in Sweden, but so far high schools there haven’t taken advantage of their popularity to attract more students to natural sciences courses. Barker-Astrom and Lister will be trailblazers when they begin teaching a forensic science class for the fall semester at Viktor Rydberg Gymnasium (high school) in Stockholm.
At the Lawrence Tech workshop they learned about test kits to use in the classroom and heard from guest speakers who conduct forensics tests for a living.
“It was very helpful to hear from teachers who are experienced with teaching forensic science. You find out what works best and what doesn’t,” said Barker-Astrom. “The workshop was entirely hands-on.”
Attracting students to the sciences is a problem in Sweden, the United States and many other countries. Mirakovits said the advantage of CSI classes is that students can apply what they have learned in class.
“My goal is to get the students to think like scientists and to use what they learn in science,” she said. “The crime scene investigation theme is what hooks them, and there has been no waning of interest among the students.”