High-School "Decomposition Research Facility"

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High-school teacher engages students
with mini “decomposition research facility”


High-school science teacher Kara Marquez was looking for a way to get her students more actively involved with learning about science and to help them understand the process of decomposition. So, she followed the lead of the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility at Sam Houston State University and set out to create her high school’s own decomposition research facility.

The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility in Huntsville, Texas is one of only four decomposition research facilities in the United States. Marquez learned about the facility during a summer teacher’s conference at the university, and she took what she learned back to the classroom. She set out to duplicate the project as part of her high school class.

“The students were really excited, but slightly apprehensive,” said Marquez. “Now I think 20 percent of the class plans to pursue a career in forensic science.”

The four-week project involved lessons on decomposition, entomology, and anthropology. A total of 48 students visited dead animal specimens on a weekly basis to document the changes.

As a result of the studies, Marquez said students earned the highest scores ever on the entomology section of their recent midterm exams, and their attendance was exceptional.

Dr. Joan Bytheway, director of the facility at Sam Houston State University, said that one of the primary goals in establishing this research facility was the necessity for interdisciplinary and intercollegiate collaborations. “This was the first high school-university collaboration and we hope to see more of this in the future,” she said.

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