Published by The Walton Tribune, Written by Stephen Milligan

The yellow police tape marked off the scene, surrounding the prone body of an unidentified woman, dead under suspicious circumstances. Pills were scattered across the floor, blood and vomit were both visible next to the victim, a table was overturned and foul play was not out of the question.

The crime scene technicians swarmed the scene, taking pictures, marking evidence, harvesting various proofs to take back to the lab later, writing copious notes on the scenario and doing their utmost to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand.

The latest episode of “CSI” this was not, however. The crime scene was in an empty conference room at Loganville Christian Academy and the hardened investigators researching the case were sophomores, juniors and seniors at the private school, all students in the biotechnology essentials class.

Thankfully, the corpse was just as illusionary, simply a mannequin set up in a staged crime scene for the sake of the students’ classwork. But the mystery is real, as teacher Mike Davis will guide the students through the case over the course of the school year in trying to discover what might have led to this faux woman’s “death.”

“Over the course of the year, we’ll be investigating the crime scene,” Davis said. “We’ll examine the woman’s medical history, look over the autopsy and by the end of May, we’ll make a determination on the cause of death.”

But while the case will be the guiding mission for much of the year, the students will try on many more hats than just CSIs.

“One of the priorities of biotechnology essentials is to expose the students to the variety of careers available in biomedical areas,” Davis said. “We obviously began with crime scene technicians but we will go on to include discussions about a number of other such jobs. We will identify responsibilities, activities and qualifications for EMTs, first responders, nurses, lab technicians, physicians, coroners, medical examiners, pathologists and other related careers.”

The course – part of LCA’s expansion of their science, technology, engineering and mathematics offerings – has also seen more interest from outside the classroom.
“I had a gentleman with experience in the DeKalb Police Department come help me set up the crime scene,” Davis. “ I had another parent who bought the mannequin, so we’ve had a lot of interest in the course. This has been a real pump in the arm for me as well, to get to do this.” The students were intrigued to get to play detective in class.

“It’s definitely interesting,” senior Emily Fields, 17, said. “It’s different than anything we’ve done before.” Fields took her time taking pictures and writing notes on the crime scene and shared her early impressions of the death. “It’s confusing,” Fields said. “There’s a lot of evidence to go through and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m excited to find out what happened.”

Senior Allison Browning, 17, agreed, doing her own deductive reasoning on the case as she went. “It’s really interesting,” she said. “It’s interactive and pretty cool. With the different drinks at the scene and the blood and vomit, we’re already suspecting a few things. I’m eager to see what we find.” Davis said he was also interested in seeing how his students responded to the challenge of the case. “There are a lot of different tracks to go down,” he said. Overall, though, he said the entire class was a great way for students to find new avenues into science and technology careers, whether he taught the next Sherlock Holmes or not.

“The goal of giving the students the exposure to these various careers is to broaden their view of possible employment opportunities and to help them find jobs that will benefit their communities as well as enabling them to provide for their families,” Davis said.