High school students investigate skeletal remains

Students in Sweet Home High School biology teacher Laurie Almeida’s anatomy classes got a real-life experience with the human skeleton last week when Almeida put them to work trying to identify human bones at at “crime scene” along Ames Creek near Weddle Bridge.

Taking crime-scene photos and working around yellow police-line tape, they took notes and drew diagrams of the bones’ locations and other features of the creek bank where the bones were found.

Using forensic anthropology techniques they learned from Almeida, the students collected the bones, which were genuine, then later, in the classroom, tried to figure out the height, ethnic origin, age range and gender of the remains.

Senior Michaella Thompson said they measured the bones and looked at surface features for clues.

“It was pretty cool, interesting,” she said. “It was hands-on.”

Almeida said she got the idea from when she took a college class in the subject while majoring in anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado,

“It’s not as cut and dried as you might think,” she said, adding that she believes the bones are those of a “young, white female about 5-2 in height.”

Some students decided the eye sockets on the skull indicated the bones were those of a Caucasian.

“I’m trying to do more hands-on things to show how the body relates to the world,” Almeida said. “This field is being hyped right now by the media, with shows like ‘CSI,’ which helps.”

Junior Nick Hall said it was kind of fun to try to figure out what happened in a different environment than the classroom.

“Our shoes got a little soggy,” he said.

Scierra Fox, another junior, said the exercise was “exciting, especially since Almeida gave them no clues about what they were going to do, other than to bring a coat and camera.

“I enjoy stuff like this,” she said. “It’s different than any projects we do in a normal science classroom. I think it was really exciting.”