South Nodaway students are working this year to solve a murder mystery in science class.

Principles of Biomedical Science teacher Kortni McCreath staged a murder in her classroom the first day of school with her class mannequin, Ana. As students learn components of science, they use their knowledge to cross examine crime scene evidence with murder suspects.

“The kids are very driven and focused. It is fun to hear their predictions about how Ana died,” McCreath said.

The curriculum is part of Project Lead the Way. McCreath took the two-week course and learned to teach the project’s labs and lessons.  To stage her crime scene, McCreath used a suspect list with profiles, including DNA, diseases, fingerprints and hair samples.

“It is an awesome opportunity. My administration is so supportive. They wanted me to go to the classes,” McCreath said.

McCreath’s students have learned about fingerprints, blood splatter patterns and hair follicles. This allows them to identify fingerprint markers and analyze blood and hair found at the crime scene. Each piece of evidence leads to a new area of class instruction with hands-on lab experiments to process the evidence.

The students extracted DNA from strawberries and then extracted their own DNA from saliva. Once a sample was taken, the saliva was mixed with a salt solution to break down the cells and release the DNA.

Later in the year, students will learn about sickle cell disease, cancer cells, diabetes and heart disease and dissect an animal heart.

The class will also study genealogy and DNA profiling in order to rule out suspects and allow them insight into Ana’s health. After learning all of the material, students will need to decide how Ana died and whether or not it was a crime.

“It could have been her health that killed her. Her diabetes could have caused her to pass out and hit her head on the way down.  I don’t know yet how she died,” McCreath said. “I can change the scenario every year to keep it fresh and to keep it a surprise for the following classes.”