• SCIENCE Period 1

    Instructor: Leitz, S.

    Welcome to Science!
    The Fall semester of this course will focus on Forensic Science topics. This will provide students with an in-depth knowledge of techniques and strategies used by scientists in analyzing crime scenes. Students will research different methods that forensic scientists use to solve crimes and analyze crime scene data to solve crimes themselves.  Topics include collecting evidence, fingerprinting, blood typing, ballistics, trace evidence, anthropology and of course DNA!
    The Spring semester of this course will focus on Genius Hour. What is Genius Hour you ask?

    Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.  It’s not easy to determine where the idea was originally created, but there are at least two events that have impacted genius hour.  Click here to find out more! (http://www.geniushour.com/what-is-genius-hour/)
    If Genius Hour isn't for you then we will be focusing on the Physical Science Topics: Energy and Waves.  This will be a comprehensive review of concepts along with projects (Rube Goldberg Machine and Instruments) as well as written assessments.


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  • Online Textbook

    Click here to log into the online textbook (Physical Science Concepts in Action 2006) Username: westerlybulldogs Password: barkbark1 Image source:  www.pearsonschool.com

    Comments (-1)
  • Welcome!

    Welcome to Science class!  I am looking forward to a great year getting to know each of you and exploring the scientific world together.

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Discussion Topics

  • Unit 8 Crime Conversations: The Christa Worthington Case

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 11/29/2016 12:12:29 PM

    Crime Conversations: The Christa Worthington Case

    Christa Worthington was a wealthy fashion writer who lived in the tiny town of Truro on Cape Cod with her young daughter.  She was stabbed to death at her house in January 2002. Three years later, the case remain unsolved.  As a result, the police began a voluntary collection of DNA from all of the town's men. Before the voluntary samples were analyzed, the results of a DNA sample taken a year earlier were finally finished.  The DNA of Christopher McCowen, who was Worthington's garbage collector, matched the DNA from the semen sample taken from the victim.  Subsequently McCowen was convicted of first degree murder.  You can read an overview of the Christa Worthington case at murderpedia.org
     

    Click here for 48 Hours Video Review of the Christa Worthington Case

    Investigate:

    Consider the following questions:

    • If you were asked to voluntarily provide a DNA sample to facilitate an unsolved crime, would you?

    • The reason it took so long to process the McCowen DNA was because of underfunding at the crime lab.  In light of that situation, do you think it makes sense to attempt further voluntary sampling?

    • What do you think of "surreptitious sampling?" Do you think the US Supreme Court should set constitutional limits on the covert collection of DNA? Why or why not?

    • With the massive increase of data storage and automation of DNA fingerprinting, it may be possible in the near future to sample, analyze and store each person's DNA fingerprint.  How would you feel about the government collecting this information at birth so that eventually any DNA collected at a crime scene could be matched with a virtually complete government DNA database (similar to the information the government now has on social security numbers)?

    Post your thoughts to the Unit 8 Crime Conversations Discussion topic.

     

    Evaluate:

    You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.
    Comments (0)
  • Unit 7 Crime Conversations: Crime Conversations: Scott Peterson vs The Casey Anthony Trial

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 11/29/2016 12:00:00 PM

    Crime Conversations: Compare/Contrast The Scott Peterson Case and The Casey Anthony Trial

    The Scott Peterson Case Background Scott Peterson was convicted for the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.  Laci's dismembered body was found in San Francisco bay months after she went missing.  Because the body was so badly decomposed, a time and cause of death could not be determined by the medical examiner.  The State was able to make their case based on circumstantial evidence and Peterson is on death row.  You can read more about the Peterson case at Murderpedia.org or view the video here: A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of Scott Peterson

    The Casey Anthony Trial Background  The badly decomposed remains of Caylee Anthony, daughter of Casey Anthony, were found in 2008.  Over two years later Casey was acquitted of murdering her daughter.  You can read an overview of the Casey Anthony case at Wikipedia.  Many people questioned how Anthony was acquitted.  After the trial was complete, ABC Nightline interviewed juror number 3.  

    Investigate:

    Consider any of  the following questions:

    • Do you think the graphic state of Laci's body affected the juror's decision?  

    • Do you think the graphic portrayal of crimes (fiction and nonfiction) in the media has changed the way we view graphic violence?

    • Did the jury reach the correct decision in your opinion?

    • Why didn't the lack of cause and time of death cause a problem for the prosecution?

    • Do you think gender played any role in the juror's mind?  In other words, if Laci had been the accused, would it have gone a different way?

    • How does the Casey Anthony case compare to the Scott Peterson case?

    • Why do you think these two cases had opposite outcomes?

    • Why do you think the evidence was not enough to convict Anthony in this case?

    • Post your initial thoughts to the Week 7 Crime Conversations Discussion.

     

    Evaluate:

    You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.

    • Post your thoughts on the questions posed about the case and submit them by the due date. 10 points

    Comments (5)
  • Unit 5 Crime Conversations: Atlanta Child Murders

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 11/9/2016 9:47:09 AM

    Crime Conversations: The Atlanta Child Murders

    Case:  Wayne Williams was convicted of murdering two people in 1981, however the cases of many other Atlanta children were closed at the same time.  Click here for a video review of the case profile.  There was circumstantial evidence as well as class evidence in the form of hair and fibers.  In a 2010 interview with CNN Williams maintained his innocence.  His appeal.   Many people argue that Williams was framed.   Additionally, hair analysis has been called into question as an incontrovertible forensic science technique by The Innocence Project, the National Academy of Sciences and the FBI's inspector general.  In a recent Retro Report for the NY Times, titled: DNA Analysis Exposes an Inexact Forensic Science, hair analysis is reexamined.  At the time of the murders, DNA fingerprinting was not available, so we may never know the validity of the hair analysis.

     
     

    Investigate:  Consider the following questions:

    • Do you think the circumstantial and class evidence was sufficient to convict Williams?

    • Many people maintain that Williams was framed.  What do you think the defense could have done to better promote this thesis?

    • Williams got upset when he testified, if you had been a juror, how do you think that would have affected you?

     

    Evaluate:  You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.

    Post your thoughts on the questions posed about the case and submit them by the due date. 10 points
    Comments (0)
  • Unit 4 Crime Conversations: The Roy Brown Case

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 11/1/2016 11:13:25 AM

    Crime Conversations: The Roy Brown Case

    Case: The bite pattern of a suspect can be matched to the bite marks associated with a crime scene, just as fingerprints of suspects can be matched to fingerprints at a crime scene.  (Bertino p. 443)

    In 1991 Sabina Kulakowski was found murdered and Roy Brown was convicted of the crime based on bite-mark analysis.  Watch Part 2 (second 15 minutes) of the PBS documentary Forensics on Trial for details into another case of mistaken identity.   

    Investigate: Consider the following questions:

    • Do you think the circumstantial evidence influenced the forensic dentistry analysis?

    • Do you think there should be any consequences when it is discovered that a forensic scientists incorrectly analyzes evidence?  If so, what consequences?

    • The documentary claims that fingerprint and bite mark analyses are more art than science.  Do you agree with this statement?

    • Do you think evidence that involves interpretation should be allowed into a trial?

     

    Evaluate:  You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.

    • Post your thoughts on the questions posed about the case and submit them by the due date. 10 points

    Comments (21)
  • Unit 3-Crime Conversations: The Madrid Train Bombings

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 10/7/2016 11:54:00 AM

    Case: This week we'll consider The Madrid Train Bombing Case.

    In 2004 several commuter trains were attacked with bombs in Madrid.  As you read the wikipedia overview of the Madrid train bombings, I'm sure you'll see several similarities the Boston bombings case.  Unlike the the Boston bombings, the Madrid case relied heavily on fingerprint evidence which turned out to be misleading.  Watch Part 1 (first 15 minutes) of the PBS documentary Forensics on Trial for details into the case of mistaken identity.

     

    Investigate: Consider the following questions:

    • Did the film change your perceptions on fingerprints?

    • Do you think it was inappropriate for the FBI to make an arrest based on fingerprint evidence?

    • What changes need to be made to fingerprint analysis in order to make the process more scientific?  How would you prioritize those changes given governmental budget constraints?

    • Do you think fingerprint evidence will continue to be a significant form of evidence now that we have DNA fingerprinting?

     

    Evaluate:  You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.

    Post your thoughts on the questions posed about the case and submit them by the due date. 10 points
    Comments (19)
  • Jon Benet Ramsey Case Analysis

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 10/3/2016 10:47:56 AM
    Lesson 2.5- Jon Benet Ramsey Case Analysis:
    Review the resources/links below and comment on what factor you think is the most crucial in securing a crime scene, specifically in the JonBenet Ramsey.  Why do you think this factor is most important?
    Comments (0)
  • Unit 1 Crime Conversations: The Jeffrey MacDonald Case

    Posted by Stacey Leitz on 9/9/2016 7:38:00 AM

    Crime Conversations: The Jeffrey MacDonald Case

    Introducing Crime Conversations:

    Most units we will start by having a discussion of one or more cases that relate to that week's topic.  You will be supplied with a brief video or online reading on the case, and then you will be required to post your thoughts on the case within the context of the guided questions.  

     

    A final note, many well-publicized cases involve highly controversial topics.  When you discuss the case you need to be mindful of the guidelines that were set forth in the course expectations.  Under no circumstances should conversations deteriorate into slanderous or derogoratory comments.  This isn't YouTube or Twitter; you are being graded on these discussions in an academic forum.  If you have an concerns about the nature of the conversation, please let me know.

     

    Case:

    This week we'll consider the Jeffrey Macdonald Case.

    Macdonald was a green beret doctor who was convicted of murdering his wife and two children in 1970.  Watch this Segment on Jeffrey MacDonald for an overview of the case.  Errol Morris reexamined the case in 2012 for his book, "A Wilderness of Error".  In it he claims the investigators "rejected, suppressed and misinterpreted crime scene evidence".  In an NPR interview on "A Wilderness of Error" Morris also claims  authorities "pursued an unethical vendetta"  against Macdonald.

     

    Investigate:

    • Consider the following questions:

    • Do you think the State should reexamine cases when claims of evidence mishandling are made?

    • From your perspective, how has crime investigation changed since 1970 when these murders occurred?

    • Do you think if the case was tried now that the verdict would be different?  Why or why not?

     

     Evaluate:

    You will earn up to 10 points for your participation in the discussion and will be assessed using the discussion rubric: General Requirements for Discussions.

    • Post your thoughts on the questions posed about the case and submit them by the due date. 10 points

    Comments (0)