crime scene lab

Copperas Cove High School freshmen, Kevin Carter and Jared Buchmeier, analyze the stomach contents of a mock deceased victim during a biology lesson as they learned about biomolecules.

Copperas Cove freshman biology teacher Margaret Paul recently took on the moniker of Detective Meg Paul and turned her science classroom into a mock crime lab, asking her students to help solve the pretend case of John Doe who died in Copperas Cove. She evaluated the mock crime scene she set up in her classroom and waited for her junior detectives — her students — to analyze the evidence.

Students were required to use scientific inquiry to plan a deliberate investigation of natural processes using scientific and engineering practices.

The students used varied methods of investigation including descriptive, comparative or experimental to examine the stomach contents of the pretend victim to determine where his last meal was eaten.

“The students are currently investigating biomolecules,” Paul said. “With understanding carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids, we need to understand that we get these from food. The students were told that John Doe likes to eat at three different restaurants in Copperas Cove, including Pizza Hut, Applebee’s and Bella Sera. They worked with chemicals like Sudan III, Biuret, Iodine, and Benedict’s reagent to discover which biomolecules were present in Doe’s stomach contents.

“Based off of the reactions from the chemicals, the students determined that Doe’s last meal was consisting of pasta, bread, and olive oil — full of carbohydrates and lipids, meaning he most likely had his last meal at Bella Sera.”

Students are learning different types of investigations include descriptive investigations, which involve collecting data and recording observations without making comparisons; comparative investigations, which involve collecting data with variables that are manipulated to compare results; and experimental investigations, which involve processes similar to comparative investigations but in which a control is identified such as with the John Doe cold case.

“Students in biology focus on patterns, processes, and relationships of living organisms through four main concepts: biological structures, functions, and processes; mechanisms of genetics; biological evolution; and interdependence within environmental systems,” said Paul. “By the end of their senior year, students are expected to gain sufficient knowledge of the scientific and engineering practices across the disciplines of science to make informed decisions using critical thinking and scientific problem solving.”

Freshman Kristene Mejia said the real-world, hands-on lessons make science one of her favorite classes.

“It was a very fun experience learning that we could find biomolecules in John Doe’s stomach,” Mejia said. “Lt. Paul was very intense because she needed to solve the cold case, but we couldn’t wait for Mrs. Paul back as our teacher. I also know that I do not want to work in the morgue. Even the fake stomach contents were gross.”

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