Teri Vance

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September 4, 2012
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Fifth-graders tap into reasoning skills to solve 'murder' mystery

Fifth-graders at Dayton Elementary School walked into their classroom Tuesday to find a crime scene.

Where their desks had been, caution tape was now strung around the outline of a body and other pieces of evidence teacher Mike Paul set up in her annual exercise to help teach students reasoning skills, as well as the scientific method and writing.

"It starts off the year in a fun, exciting way," she said, "but it's also tying it into curriculum."

Paul explained to them that the outline of the body belonged to a person named Felix, and that body had been taken to the morgue. However, the body had disappeared. Some witnesses even claimed to have seen Felix boarding a train.

From there, students took notes, observing what they saw. Paul cautioned them to write only facts instead of making inferences. When one student pointed out blood spatter near the head of the drawing, she reminded him he could only conclude it was red drops until the matter was tested.

Once observations were made and evidence collected, students conducted scientific experiments to solve the mystery. Finally, they wrote up their conclusions, based on their investigations.

"They have to cite scientific evidence," Paul explained. "They have to use their investigative powers, and they have to use evidence to support their conclusions."

Bella Kordonowy, 11, drew some conclusions from what was strewn about the scene.

"They must have been getting dressed or getting ready or something," she said. "There's perfume in there, a hairbrush, sunglasses and a watch."

Lynzee Cavanaugh, 9, may have gotten a glimpse into her future profession.

"We get to pretend we're investigators," she said. "That's what I want to be when I grow up. It's really cool because you get to find stuff out and solve the mystery."

As far as the solution, Paul said, there wasn't one necessarily.

"They have to come to their own solution," she said. "They have to come to their own conclusion based on the evidence."

Keerat Bhullar, 10, knew what he was going to do once he reached his conclusion.

"You have to find a suspect and a victim," he said. "Then you could just arrest them and all that stuff."

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Sep 5, 2012 03:11AM Published Sep 4, 2012 10:12PM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.