Forensic science “Hunts A Killer”

New independent study curriculum allow students to work to solve crimes

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Jude Rodriguez

Box one of the Hunt A Killer case “Class of ’98” features a Class of 1998 Chestnut Falls High yearbook, police reports, and witness statements.

The Forensic Science independent study program utilized a popular subscription-based murder mystery box set within their hybrid learning curriculum.
According to their website, Hunt A Killer is an immersive murder mystery game told over the course of six “episodes” or boxes. Each box is filled with different clues and physical items such as autopsy reports, witness statements, and more.
“I thought the project was a great idea,” Forensic Science teacher Melanie Merrifield said. “I think a major part of forensics is looking at the clues and evidence and putting the ‘puzzle’ together to solve the crime. They are really doing the work of a detective.”
The Hunt A Killer box set was paid for on behalf of the science department and is currently being investigated by the two Forensic Science independent studies.
“The case is about the graduating class of 1998 in the town of Chestnut Falls coming together for a class reunion; one of the class members is found murdered in his car after the reunion, with all of the suspects being classmates of his,” senior independent study Meagan Raupp said. “There are six boxes and nine suspects– each box we eliminate one suspect and check the Hunt A Killer website using a special code to see if we were right or wrong in eliminating them, and continue onto the next box from there.”
The idea for the project came after starting the school year with distance learning and then transitioning into the hybrid model. The Hunt A Killer box set was ordered at the beginning of the school year, but the independent studies first had to solve and present a different mock criminal case before they could start the “Class of ‘98” box set.
“I think hybrid learning has made working a little difficult, but not impossible,” Raupp said. “If anything, I’m given more time to think about things instead of cramming in a lot of information at once everyday. I think it is a good project to do, even with hybrid learning because part of it is accessible online as well.”
While working on the project, the independent studies only receive two days a week to look through the provided case material, leaving a lot of time to spend theorizing and speculating until they return.
“Luckily, they are both gold group students so they can work on stuff the same day,” Merrifield said. “But on asynchronous days, it’s hard for them to take any physical material home to work on because they wouldn’t be back in school for a few days.”
Compared to last year’s Forensic Science curriculum, Raupp finds the project refreshing due to its reliance on personal deduction and intuition.
“In Forensic Science last year, we did a lot of labs and a lot of test trials,” Raupp said. “We never really solved a murder case. With Hunt A Killer, we are given a murder case as if it was real complete with files, documents, pictures, online audio files, etc. It is set up like a genuine murder case for us to solve, which is really interesting because it give you insight into how cases are investigated.”
The introduction of the Hunt A Killer project seems to foreshadow a lasting impact for the Forensic Science independent study program going forward, especially if next year’s studies are also faced with the dilemma of hybrid learning.
“I think I would definitely suggest this to future independent studies in forensics,” Merrifield said. “I think the essence of an independent study is to work alone with little teacher guidance and this provides the opportunity to think on their own.”