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Students in Forensic Anthropology record evidence from a "crime scene," set up as a lab assignment by Visiting Assistant Professor Mindy Pitre. (Photo by Tara Freeman)
It's lab day for students in Forensic Anthropology, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Mindy Pitre. Students have to learn how to record and catalogue a site, as they
would have to if they were involved in an anthropological dig. Many profs would lay down a grid on a spot of land and assign students a square, with
plants, wildlife, soil, etc. making up the items on their logs. Not so with Pitre.

Instead, she staged a mock crime scene in the attic of Piskor Hall, and turned students loose to secure the area, take photos and keep records of what they found. The assignment reads like the description of a new TV series: "The involvement of the forensic anthropologist as soon as decomposed or skeletonized remains are located is crucial to the thorough and well-documented recovery of human remains and associated evidence."

Further adding to the fun, Pitre made "CSI SLU" identification badges for each student, so it would seem more like a true crime-scene investigation.

Pitre is a believer in hands-on learning, as she's demonstrated with unusual assignments that have included having students clean and categorize teeth donated by area dentists, making "mummies" from chickens in her course Dealing With The
or, for the same course, a visit to a Canton funeral home.

"I could just ask students to record what they find in their square of the grid," she explained. "But what fun is that? This is more fun and more interesting, and as a result, students are more enthusiastic and they will remember the experience. All of the 'CSI' television shows are very popular and students have seen museum exhibitions where actual human bodies are on display. Interest in these kinds of activities is very high, so I thought I would work with that."

Did they solve the "crime" in the attic? Not their job. They just record the evidence.

Posted: October 10, 2012

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