“CSI Bellevue: Who Did It?”

illustration of CSI tools

In the 2014-2015 school year, Bellevue College awarded at least 79 percent of the 2,560 graduates with an associate’s degree that would allow them to transfer to other schools to pursue their major and complete their bachelor’s degree. One of the main components of any associate’s degree, whether it is for a STEM concentration or a general arts and sciences program, is the completion of natural sciences, which students will find themselves gradually taking one course at a time.

However, this coming fall BC will be offering an interdisciplinary course that will combine biology, chemistry and anthropology. “CSI Bellevue: Who Did It?” or INTER110 is a 17-credit course that will give students the opportunity to complete their natural sciences and cultural diversity requirements. For those pursuing an associate’s in science track I or II, this course also helps clear prerequisites for upper level chemistry or biology courses.

INTER110 will be integrating BIO 160, CHEM 121 or 160 and ANTH 125. Students in the course will find their days split into three parts. From Monday to Thursday, class will begin at 9:30 a.m. On Fridays, INTER110 will start at 8:30 a.m. In a typical week, students will find that each day will have chemistry and biology or chemistry and anthropology lectures. On some days, students will attend all three lectures. Chemistry will be led by Gina Fiorini, biology will be taught by Allison Kang and anthropology will be instructed by Anthony Tessandori.
In addition, by combining these three courses the instructors also expect students to apply their knowledge to investigate a crime scene. In the first week, students in groups will be shown a murder scene where they will have to record information. As the lectures from each course progresses, the instructors will teach students different analysis methods that may lead them along the investigation as well. For example, students may use gel electrophoresis to analyze DNA samples of the given suspects in the crime scene.

Students will carry out their investigation throughout the quarter. By gathering more data from applying newly-learned techniques, students will be constructing a portfolio of information and analyses of the crime scene investigation. “Every Friday, we’ll present the data and the students will take the data, analyze it and come up with a reasonable suspect,” explained Kang, “Every week, they’re building a portfolio so at the end of the quarter, they will write a report and present their conclusion.”

“We’re really trying to integrate each of the fields, but at the same time give them distinct chemistry, biology and forensic anthropology experience so that they are prepared for the next level,” said Kang.

This aspect probably makes INTER110 a unique course for students to take. Students in single subject classes normally focus on one topic and it is often a “linear model of learning,” according to Kang, where there are explicit instructions and little to no application into real world examples or even other subjects. INTER110 strives to change that style of education. By integrating chemistry, biology and anthropology, students are essentially given the tools to solve a fictional mystery. Application of material is a major component in this interdisciplinary course. The CSI group project makes up 15 percent of the total grade.

Aside from applications in CSI, students will also take weekly quizzes that will examine their progress in all three classes. Each quiz will be cumulative and this will later help at the end of the quarter when students have to take the final exam. “Even though it seems like it’s more work, in actuality it’s less work than taking the three classes separately because we integrate it so that if there’s duplication of material such as chemical bonds in both biology and chemistry, we don’t have to teach it twice. We end up teaching less material because the content overlaps,” explained Kang.

INTER110 will be offered in fall 2016 and since it is a 17-credit course, it won’t give students the space to take other courses. However, “in terms of time commitment, it’s not overwhelming,” said Kang.