From crime lab to classroom, a partnership impacting local high school students

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:38 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -There are things in this story I never expected to see--a high school teacher learning the ropes at a crime lab and her students doing the same in the classroom, tackling subjects like DNA collection, fingerprints, autopsies and blood spatter analysis.

There’s a direct connection here and it centers around a partnership between the Forensic Science Division at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Bio-medical Science Academy at Reed High School.

The teacher is Terin Arnold. She’s been serving an externship at the crime lab. When we caught up with her on a recent Friday, her hands-on experience was focused on firearm evidence, which involved experiences she never imagined, such as attending the test-firing of a handgun, recovering the bullets, then learning how criminalists match them to a particular firearm.

t’s just one of a number of experiences she couldn’t have imagined as she prepared for a high school teaching career.

“It’s reteaching myself some things and teaching myself some new things I’m learning here. And then designing ways to piecemeal things together for my students as lessons when I bring that experience back to the classroom.”

She’s sharing that experience and exposure to forensic science with her students. Most, if not all of them imagined a career as a physician when they signed up as 8th graders for the Academy. Now in their senior year, they’re getting a glimpse at another possibility.

”Certainly they watch CSI and Bones and Dexter. They are all very into those things. So sometimes when I sneak in those forensic science lessons it really piques their interest.”

Much of what is going on in her classroom is hands-on. And the skills they are learning are real and valuable. They will take them with them when they graduate, along with one college credit.

" I’ve had students that have graduated that because of the skills they have from our bio-medical program are hired as freshmen in technical lab environments when they get to college.”

It’s likely most will still pursue their original goals, go on to medical school, become doctors, but it’s also possible there’s a future criminalist or two in that class.

“I certainly hope so.”

Kerri Heward, Director of Forensic Science at the sheriff’s office says she’s seen it happen. “We’ve had some of those kids come and be interns for us and then later become employees.”

If nothing else, it’s given these students and their teacher a glimpse of another branch of the medical sciences and a new appreciation for its work.

“It’s really incredible what they are doing here every single day,” says Arnold. “They are bringing people peace and saving lives and they’re doing it from a lab environment and that’s pretty cool.”

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