SHSU Develops Forensic Certification Course for TEA

Teacher helps student on a tablet, with a strand of DNA illuminating from the screen.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently launched a free, online professional development course for high school teachers assigned to teach Forensic Science. The Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University developed the course.

Teacher compares fingerprints.
Teacher compares fingerprints.
The professional development course is available to all public K-12 districts and open-enrollment charter schools in Texas through Project Share, TEA’s online learning community. The 90-hour course, located at www.projectsharetexas.org, provides academic and hands-on learning activities in forensic science, including safety and the scientific method, crime scene investigations, trace evidence, firearms and tools marks, fingerprints, forensic biology, forensic toxicology, questioned documents, and forensic anthropology.

“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.”

Dr Jorn Yu works with students in the SHSU forensic lab.Dr. Jorn Yu was one of the professors that assisted with the TEA program.Faculty and staff at the Department of Forensic Science and the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas developed the online course. The Institute provides professional management training programs for law enforcement agencies across Texas. Among the faculty and staff that participated in course development were Dr. David Gangitano, Dr. Chi-Chung Jorn Yu and Kelsie Bryand from the Department of Forensic Science, and Dr. Webb and Andrea Hoke from LEMIT.

The course, delivered in 10 modules, includes presentations, experiments, pictures and graphics. The courses were filmed at Sam Houston State University.

Teachers identify bones in the human skeleton.
Teachers identify bones in the human skeleton.
“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."

In 2010, the State Board of Education designated several career and technical education (CTE) courses, including Forensic Science, that high school students may use to fulfill the fourth year math or science requirements for students to graduate from high school. The State Board for Educator Certification required that teachers assigned to teach Forensic Science complete specific professional development related to the course, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) awarded SHSU a grant to write the professional development.

Teacher creates blood spatter patterns.
Teacher creates blood spatter patterns.
The TEA selected Sam Houston because of its outstanding reputation in forensic science. The University offers a Master of Science in Forensic Science as well as undergraduate minors in Forensic Science and Forensic Anthropology. In addition to the academic program, the University houses the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility (STAFS), one of only six body donation facilities in the country dedicated to the study of forensic science as it applies to the human body in an effort to solve criminal cases and to develop the skills of crime scene investigators.

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

Teachers photograph a mock crime scene.
Teachers photograph a mock crime scene.
The Forensic Science professional development course is only one of the opportunities provided to high school instructors and students at SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice. Each summer, students interested in criminal justice can attend criminal justice 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 STAFS.

STAFS also provides ongoing face-to-face classes for high school teachers. This summer’s offerings include the analysis of blood stains, forensic entomology, digital forensic, advanced CSI, and criminal investigations and the courtroom.

For more information about the summer programs, contact Dr. Joan Bytheway, Director of STAFS, at (936) 294-2310 or jab039@shsu.edu.

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