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Murder mystery engages students, teachers at CCHS

Jessica Young’s forensic science class at Crisp County High School is murder, and everyone wants to get in on the action.

Young, in her second year as a teacher in the high school’s science department, has crafted a course of study around a theoretical murder mystery. Students who take her forensic science class study a mix of medical and legal-related topics that have real-world applications in a variety of professional fields, most notably in the healthcare and public safety professions.

Young tackles the material with a hands-on approach and immerses her students in the world of solving a simulated murder mystery.

“Hands-on activities really seem to keep the students engaged in a way that lecturing with a powerpoint presentation doesn’t,” Young said. “And, really, who doesn’t love a mystery? Everybody loves to solve a good puzzle.”

Young’s puzzle – matched with her enthusiasm – has drawn teachers and students from other disciplines into the murder mystery. Young said that as more and more people expressed interest in participating, it dawned on her and her colleagues that murder mysteries can be an avenue for teaching across a multitude of disciplines.

English/Language Arts students have created a podcast that brought the crime to life and an obituary to tell the victim’s story. Journalism students have created a documentary and images of the crime scene. Foreign language students are providing translations. Art students craft individual clues for the mock crime scenes. Economics lessons centered on the mystery provide insight to life insurance and budgeting for funeral expenses, while math students create assessments to apply their knowledge to the real-world concept.

The murder mystery has taken on a life of its own and become a cross-curriculum assignment that is inspiring students and teachers alike. Well over 100 students have participated so far this term.

“I didn’t have one student who wasn’t completely engaged 100 percent of the time,” said Young. “I get texts from teachers at night with suggestions. The collaborative efforts by everybody from top to bottom have been really special.”

Crisp County Coroner Jimmy Rainey’s office and other public safety officials have provided a great deal of assistance, too.

“This just started out as an idea, but the wonderful thing is that everyone who has taken part has made the idea better and made it a great experience for the students,” Young said. “We are so lucky to have an administration staff that allows us to be creative and think ‘outside of the box.’  They stand behind our ideas and even help make the ideas come to life.”

“The collaboration between subject areas and the student participation is astounding. Our staff pulled together to make this project interesting and fun for our students. The level of excitement and enthusiasm shown by our students was very rewarding for all of us as teachers and administrators involved in this project,” according to CCHS administrators.