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Forensics or Forensics?

Forensics or Forensics?

When you hear the word “forensics,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you picture someone on stage, performing a rehearsed speech with dramatic enthusiasm? Or, do you envision a trench coat-wearing inspector on a rainy, dark street, thoughtfully reviewing a crime scene investigation? Both are correct, and both disciplines are offered to Bloomfield Hills High School students, but they could not be more different. Keep reading for more details about each opportunity.

Forensics Club

The Forensics club at Bloomfield Hills High School is a well-respected co-curricular team of students and coaches. The Black Hawks 4n6 club (as they are known) has earned two state championships at the team level, numerous invitational victories and even more individual awards. Teacher and former head coach, Danielle Tier, explains, “Think of Forensics as speech and acting put together.” The BHHS Forensics web page describes, “This program is well suited for any student that is interested in learning, developing, and showcasing their acting, speaking, and discussion talents in a fun, friendly, and competitive setting.” Tier notes some of the benefits of getting involved in Forensics, “[Students will] build confidence as a presenter and empathy by inhabiting different characters.”

Two main categories exist within Forensics: interpretive and public address. Within each main category, there are several sub-categories. One example of an interpretive sub-category is storytelling. A competitor chooses a selection from children’s literature and performs the story in front of trained judges, bringing the characters and story to life with just the use of their body language, voice and actions. It is usually humorous and energetic. Storytelling is performed by one person, while there are other sub-categories, such as multiple and duo, where two or more students will perform a piece together. An example of public address is the extemporaneous sub-category. A student will receive a prompt, usually having to do with current events, and will have 30 minutes to prepare an informed 5-7 minute speech about the topic. Students have a quiet area to conduct their research utilizing the internet or any source for quotes, statistics, etc. The student then delivers their speech in front of the judges.

Middle school students have an opportunity to develop their speaking skills by auditioning for a team at North or South Hills Middle Schools. The teams compete in middle level competitions once or twice per year. High school students interested in joining the Forensics team can take high school classes which will bolster the skills necessary for success; however, this is not a requirement. Theater classes, instructed by Mrs. Bogrette, are a great choice for students interested in the interpretive side of the discipline, while the Communications: Speech and Debate class, taught by Mrs. Tier, is a good choice for the public address side of forensics. Students can get an understanding of the differences in the categories by reviewing the forensics 101 information. Audition workshops for students are held prior to the actual auditions in early December, with competition season running through early May.


Forensic Science

Forensic Science is a semester-long course that students can take in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade for a .5 science credit. Students learn how to use scientific methods to solve criminal cases (murders, arson, missing person cases, theft, etc.) In the first unit, students learn the "basic" terms used throughout the course, and how to think like a scientist to solve mysteries. Then, the "death and decomposition" unit teaches about how bodies decompose at different rates in different environments, and goes into how an autopsy is performed to determine cause of death. The third unit is called "fingerprints and impressions," where students learn about the different fingerprint patterns and how scientists can make invisible (latent) prints visible. The fourth unit is about trace evidence (fibers, powders) and ballistics.  How can bullet trajectories be used to find out where a shooter was located?  The final unit is “Blood and DNA,” and how those biological substances can help us identify a suspect in a case.  

For each unit there is a hands-on lab. These may include the study of rotting flesh (meat with salt treatments), discerning blood spatter patterns (theatrical blood), or fiber testing. Then, the final exam features a very involved case with several victims, scenes, and suspects. Students use what they have learned all semester to analyze the evidence and come up with a re-creation of what happened during the week of the crime(s). 

The highlight of the semester is the field trip to Erebus Escape, where the students are challenged in the "Body of Evidence" room that is entirely crime-scene themed! The students must solve the puzzles to escape the room in under an hour. Some even make it to the “Hall of Fame” hanging in Ms. DeLuca’s classroom with student groups that have escaped the fastest.

Rhiannon Brown (grade 12) loved the course so much that she is currently signed up for an "advanced forensic science" independent study course. Brown is the first student to do this at BHHS and is helping to write new curriculum as she goes along. Brown is also creating a crime scene mystery for the other classes to complete in April!