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Johnson High students investigate ‘crime scene,’ practice forensic science

POSTED: January 18, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Fingerprints, blood, saliva — investigators look for it all when going through a crime scene.

Johnson High School students got a chance to solve a crime on their own Friday, taking a break from the regular classroom thanks to an Atlanta university.

“We really try to have our students see the relevance of what they’re learning in the classroom,” said Amanda Lewallen, the International Baccalaureate and International Scholars Academy coordinator for the school. “We also like to expose students to those who have achieved, college-level students who hopefully our students will aspire to become.”

The students got to test their science skills thanks to Georgia State University’s Bio-Bus, which stopped to help International Scholars Academy ninth-grade honors biology students through the exercise.

The bus is staffed with college students from a variety of science backgrounds. They travel across Georgia to introduce science to K-12 students.

At Johnson, they saw pictures and information relevant to a crime: a teenager kidnapped from her bedroom with a ransom note left behind. The suspect left behind DNA samples, including blood and saliva.

University student Davita Camp told students 99 percent of human DNA is the same.

“It’s only 1 percent that tells us that we’re different,” she said. “But it makes sense though, right? Because do I have three eyes? Do I have four ears? So that makes sense that close to 99 percent is similar.”

The biology students then got to conduct three tests to find out who committed the crime. Camp walked the students through how to test a DNA sample in what’s called amylase testing.

“(The DNA samples) are from the cells, our skin cells, that fall off very frequently,” she explained.

The students also got to take their own fingerprint samples, learning that fingerprints form when the fetus touches the mother’s stomach — hence, why no two people have the exact same prints.

And finally, they tested synthetic blood samples to see whose blood type matched what was found at the crime scene.

“I spoke to some students earlier today and I said ‘Are you interested in science?’” Lewallen said. “They said ‘yes.’ One wanted to be a nurse, maybe even a forensic science nurse.

“I’m really glad the students are seeing the real-world application of what they’re learning in the classroom.”


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