Online Forensic Science Certification Developed for High School Teachers

Teachers gather around human bones at the Southest Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility
The College of Criminal Justice currently offers a High School Criminal Justice Instructor Training program annually.

Sam Houston State University will develop a free, online course for high school teachers to become certified as forensic science instructors.

The Forensic Science Program at SHSU received a $150,000 grant to develop the online professional education program that high school educators will be required to take to teach a high school forensic science classes beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year. The 90-hour course will be available to teachers by August.

'The benefit for teachers is that they will be given the required knowledge from an accredited university course with live professors," said Dr. David Webb, program manager for the project. "For the university, it makes us review what high school students need if they want to take science courses in college so that we are far more joined up in the process."

The program, which is being developed at SHSU by forensic scientists Dr. David Gangitano and Dr. Chi-Chung Jorn Yu and program coordinator Kelsie Bryand, will include Powerpoint presentations, experiments, pictures and graphics. It will offer 10modules on safety and the scientific method; an introduction to forensic science; crime scene investigations; firearms and tool marks; trace evidence; forensic biology; fingerprinting; forensic toxicology; the originality of documents; and forensic anthropology.

"The objective of this project is to translate all this science from the graduate level to high schools," said Dr. Gangitano. "I see this project as a wonderful opportunity for our high school students to encourage them to learn science. Forensic Science is a nice example of how science can be applied in a very useful way."

The course, which will be filmed at SHSU facilities, will be available through Epsilen,a global learning management system, and will be offered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) at no cost to teachers.

In 2007, the Texas Legislature added several Career and Technical programs, including forensic science, that could be used to fulfill the fourth year math and science requirements to graduate high school. The legislature required that teachers be certified in these programs beginning in the 2012 school year.

The TEA selected Sam Houston to deliver the forensic science program because of its outstanding reputation in forensic science. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Chemistry and a Master of Science in Forensic Science. In addition to the academic program, the University also hosts the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility, one of only four "body farms" in the country, as well as the Regional Crime Lab, which provides drug analysis and toxicology laboratory services to agencies in a 10 county area.

"It is nice to be acknowledged as one of the best forensic science programs in Texas,” said Dr. Webb.

Because some forensic science teachers already have skills in the discipline, the course is designed to allow educators to take an exam to test out of each of the 10 modules in the program. The program requires a score of 80 to pass or teachers will be required to go through each step in the module.

The high school teacher education program is only one of the opportunities offered to high school instructors and students at SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice. Each summer, students interested in criminal justice can attend Summer Camps that introduce participants to the diverse career opportunities in the field, including forensic science, local, state and federal law enforcement, and crime scene investigation. Past camp speakers have included the DEA, U.S. Marshals, FBI, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Homeland Security, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, and Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility.

The College also presents an annual conference for high school criminal justice instructors, which provides professional training workshop with the College’s faculty and experts in the field. Two summer programs also are offered for teachers in forensic science, as well as an accredited Forensic Science "Crime Scene Investigator" course run at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.

Member of The Texas State University System