It takes an RPS 205 academy to solve a crime

Only two people at Guilford High School know who killed Lisa Durn.  And they aren’t talking.

Students in the Human and Public Services Academy at Guilford are doing an interdisciplinary project in crime scene investigation. They are solving the fictional murder of Durn, a newspaper editor in Mississippi. A crime scene has been staged near the old gymnasium. Alignment Rockford has helped recruit detectives and other professionals from the community to visit and talk about their work.

Some of the lessons were not for the squeamish, said Clark Fabert-Church, chairman of the Guilford English Department. A crime lab worker told students the “body”—a soot-stained dummy borrowed from the Rockford Fire Department –would smell because of the state of decomposition. Students learned about forensic autopsies and how bodies of victims remain presentable for open caskets.

Guilford students listen to a Rockford police officer describe crime scene work.

Guilford students listen to a Rockford police officer describe crime scene work.

The goal of the project is to sharpen critical thinking skills and engage Rockford Public Schools students in a way traditional learning might not. The crime scene investigation aligns with curriculum in math, English, chemistry and biology. For example: Students use chemistry principles to identify substances at the crime scene. They use math principles to determine how the distance between strides can dictate a person’s height. In English, Fabert-Church’s students read Sherlock Holmes to learn the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning.

Haley Cain, a junior, said crime scene investigation has helped her understand how careers require diverse skills. She wants to work in child and youth services. “It’s really helpful,” Cain said. “It’s a breakaway from the typical criteria we learn.”

The project has pulled in theater classes, too.  Students like junior Emma DeLeon learn in English class how to choose detail to write a compelling mystery. Then, in theater, they do character studies of the suspects so they can act the part.

“I have the best of both worlds,” DeLeon said.

The hard work by HPS academy students warrants a big splash to solve the case and identify the murderer of Lisa Durn. “Our goal is to pull all of them into the auditorium and reveal it,” Fabert-Church said.

For more about the project, see this RPS 205 video by Alan Leon.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.