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“C.S.I. has become a national obsession,”
Jane Pauley
The Jane Pauley Show
November 4, 2004

C.S.I. graces the airwaves three times a week, with C.S.I., C.S. I. Miami and C.S.I. NY. Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS calls it “the most successful television franchise in history.” And there’s more: at least a dozen fictional and reality-based series about criminal investigation through various methods of forensic science can be found in the prime time schedules of major networks and on cable channels like Court TV.

Would it surprise you to learn that this proliferation pales when compared to C.S.I. classes in our nations high schools? Take a look at a few excerpts which describe this quiet phenomenon.

  • “Fish Tale Has DNA Hook: Students Find Bad Labels” In a tale of teenagers, sushi and science, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, who graduated this year from the Trinity School in Manhattan, took on a freelance science project in which they checked 60 samples of seafood using a simplified genetic fingerprinting technique to see whether the fish New Yorkers buy is what they think they are getting. What may be most impressive about the experiment is the ease with which the students accomplished it. (NY Times, August 21, 2008)
  • “CSI Effect Draws More Women to Forensics” gone are the days of girls ‘not getting’ science. They are getting it AND going for it! According to a recent Associated Press review of accredited forensic programs 75 percent of graduates are women! This is UP 64% since 2000. The article describes how these women made these choices early in their teen years, mentioning that even The Girl Scouts of America has a badge for forensic study called: “Uncovering the Evidence.” (AP, August 19, 2008)
  • “Forensic Experts Walk Teens Through Staged Crime Scenes”
    Allegheny County’s chief forensic investigator left it to nine teenagers to figure out what happened at four crime scenes on the 10th floor of Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall on Monday night. As the teens pulled on rubber gloves, slipped on blue booties and stepped into the blood-spattered, trashed rooms in the Downtown dormitory, they got a taste of the life of a crime scene investigator. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 6/17/2007)
  • “Students Try To Crack Famous Cold Cases” CNN is following four Bauder College students as they build their case files in the Chandra Levy and Natalee Holloway investigations. The Campus Crime Club is part of CNNU, which features student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. (CNN, June 11, 2008)
  • Mountain State University Forensic Investigation, School of Arts and Sciences Although forensic investigation (crime scene investigation) is a young science and profession, it is a dynamic one, its growth spurred by new technologies, increased use by law enforcement, jury expectations, and new legal requirements. Forensics-focused education is a direct response to the increased role science plays in the courtroom today and is one of the fastest-growing courses of study in colleges and universities. (current online catalog)
  • “Teens Get a Sniff of Forensic Science” The stench of rotting pigs really made science come alive for high school students involved in solving a hypothetical murder as part of a workshop designed to encourage students to earn bachelor degrees in science and engineering. (The Daily News Online, Longview, WA June 3, 2008)
  • “CSI Canyon Del Oro High” There’s a dead woman named Tina lying in a pool of blood in the office of Canyon del Oro High School. But don’t worry — the “body” is actually a mannequin, and it’s part of a mock crime scene used by students involved in the school’s forensic-science program. It’s the first year the high school has offered forensic-science courses, and interest in the program was immediate, Oro Valley police Officer Shawn Benjamin said. Ninety students signed up for the yearlong class after Benjamin obtained a $9,000 grant from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education to fund the course. (Arizona Daily Star, 4/10/08)
  • “Youth Interest in Forensic Sparks Library Presentation” The Tracy Library in Oakland, California occasionally offers CSI presentations in cooperation with experts from the Tracy Police Department. The crime scene technician teaching the class noted that “All these kids understand the concept of CSI from pop culture and television shows.” (Oakland Tribune, August 4, 2007)
  • Forensic Camp for Teens: Nate Saldivar approaches the grisly crime scene of skeletal human remains with the air of a seasoned professional.Except he’s only a junior in high school. Saldivar isn’t the youngest member of the police crime lab; he’s a student in the Arizona Research Laboratories Forensics: The Science Detectives camp, a hands-on experience for students interested in forensics careers. Excavating, photographing and bagging remains are all in a day’s work for these 27 students. (The Death Investigator blog, 6/19/07)
  • “4H Forensics – Young Sleuths Solve the Mystery of the Post Mortem Interval – with Crime Solving Insects” Created for youths ages 13 to 17 is a hands-on lesson in which 4-H’ers evaluate evidence from four animal death scenarios. The teens are given information about the life cycles of insects as related to the stages of corpse decomposition. Then they receive samples of simulated maggots “collected” from a fictional animal corpse and are asked to determine the postmortem interval in which the insects developed. The students are challenged to determine time of death and whether foul play was involved. (Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Science current catalog)
  • “AISD offers new forensics class”: Sixteen-year-old Raymond Guerrero is interested in forensics, and because of a new Austin Independent School District and Austin Police Department cooperative program, he will be given the chance to pursue this interest hands on.” (The Daily Texas, 6/15/2004)
  • “Forensic-science classes hope to use TV shows’ success:” The investigators are the first high school students in the nation to use forensic-science curriculum offered by Court TV and designed to capitalize on the interest in television shows like “CSI” and “Forensic Files”. (USA Today, New Rochelle, NY, October 25 2002)
  • “Forensic study adds spice:” These students are learning science in ways they never imagined” said Ken Vanderworp, a science teacher at Tinkham Alternative High School. “They’re learning science without even knowing about it.” (Detroit News, September 15, 2004)
  • “Making Science Cool: High School Teachers Study Forensics to Attract More Kids to Science:” There are super high registration rates for these high school classes. Forensics is the hottest thing in science education right now” (St. Louis University News, June 19, 2004)
  • “High School Forensic Class Makes Chemistry Fun:” Horizon Honors High School in Ahwatukee Foothills, Arizona, offers an honors forensics course, which ties together: chemistry, physics, biology and math.“ (Arizona Republic, April 30, 2004)
  • “Youths Take To Forensics:” Forest Hill ninth grader, Matthew Turner said the UMC institute’s loan of advanced biomedical equipment is making his high school biology lab experience more like actual crime scene investigation.” (The Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi News, October 3, 2004)
  • “Courses in forensic science enliven high school curricula:” Popular TV shows pique students’ interests; teachers work to satisfy their curiosity… After 40 years teaching high school science, Vera Bryan realized dissecting frogs and growing bacteria in Petri dishes wasn’t cutting it anymore. She needed something to overcome the apathy of her students — something like a good crime scene investigation. It worked.” (Sacramento Bee, November 6, 2003)
  • “CSI High School:” If there were a television show called “C.S.I. Minnesota,” it might look a lot like Emily Loerakker’s class at Richfield High School… James Hurley, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, has talked to more than 800 middle and high school teachers from the United States about starting classes.” (Star Tribune Mpls.-St. Paul December 10, 2002).
  • “At Stetson Middle School in Westchester, Pa:” the students read The Outsiders, a 1967 novel about gangs in Oklahoma, in English class while developing psychological profiles of the characters in science class.” (Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2002)
    (Note: copies of articles no longer online are available by request.)

About Sheryl Scarborough

For MONEY I have written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters, Mens Style (online) Magazine (as managing editor),screenplays (well, okay so not so much about the money there) and Restaurant Reviews (for free food!) Now… I’m writing for love and what I LOVE are young adult mystery novels.

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