True Detectives

It all started when Elysia Burroughs’s honors biology class found a “murdered” mannequin in the Potato Patch – a grassy slope just above the playing fields.
The victim, who the class dubbed Dorothy, offered only one clue about her demise: a puddle of vomit beside her. Burroughs tasked her students with determining where Dorothy last ate based on chemical indicators in the food remnants at the unpleasant scene.
“The assignment forced students to understand different biological molecules we find in our bodies and our foods, while also learning about indicators, proper lab protocols, and lab safety,” Burroughs explains.
The students learned that Dorothy ate frequently at three nearby establishments – Poor Thom’s Tavern, the Meriden Deli, and Ziggy’s Pizza; she had a signature meal she consistently ordered at each place. They worked together to analyze the information available at the crime scene and after extensive work, discovered that her last meal originated from Poor Thom’s.
“The students got into the project more deeply than they have ever done in my time teaching about organic molecules,” Burroughs observes. “They kept thinking of creative reasons why Dorothy may have been at the Potato Patch, why Thom’s, and why she might have been murdered. Students’ creativity flowed freely, and they used excellent critical thinking skills. I had no idea how intense this would get. The kids got into it to the point where they were coming up with alibis for peers and devising complicated motives for specific murder suspects!”
Although the students didn’t get to the point where mock arrests could be made, by the end of the term they submitted Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) assignments to support their findings using lab evidence and their newfound understanding of organic molecular biology. Burroughs suspects there will be another, eerily similar event on campus next year, when students can look forward to cracking a new case.