CSI: Who Killed Bill?

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Students will be able to use the speed of a bullet to determine who killed Bill.

Big Idea

Physics can be used to solve crimes.

Setting the Stage

I value collaborative team learning and inquiry. With this in mind, I ask students to move beyond defining quantities like distance, speed and acceleration to focus instead on the usefulness of these measurements. I have students address a real world scenario and to use their understanding of basic physics concepts to support a set of claims. This lesson aligns with the HSF-IF.B.4 standard because students have to use their understanding of kinematics graphs to solve the crime of "Who Killed Bill?"

Students create work products that include written, visual and verbal domains to give students with different learning affinities a time to shine within the project. The week-long project is broken up into several parts, with checkpoints built in for students to discuss their thought process with their lab mates in order to consider multiple viewpoints of the problem at hand.

The Warm-Up is a writing activity which I project using the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. I have students write in their notebooks as many occupations that use physics in their daily routines. I choose this type of warm-up because within this lesson I ask students to take on the role of a crime scene investigator and use physics to solve crime puzzles. I want students to learn that applying physics involves more than solving equation for an unknown or substituting values into equations.  I assess students daily progress using a Habits of Work and Mind rubric. During this investigation, students ask questions to determine which suspect has the greatest likelihood of being the perpetrator of a crime. I ask my students to use the question "So now what?" to help them push beyond the idea that a "correct" solution means the cessation of learning. This relates to the NGSS Practices of Asking Questions and Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP1 and SP6 ) because students pose questions that help drive their investigation. Students have to eliminate suspects based on their calculations of speed and acceleration. They ask each other questions about their calculations, data, and analysis by questioning each other in small groups.

Using Technology to Visualize Physics Concepts

20 minutes

To begin this class I provide students with a prompt that reads “How is physics related to investigating crimes?” This is the opening to student work, in teams of 2-4, to determine: "Who Killed Bill?" Over the next 20 minutes students will use technology of their choices (poppletcoggle and prezi) to create a visual with the phrase Crime Scene Investigations at the center. There are laptops and other means of digital technology throughout the classroom. I ask students to add images, links and equations that are related to investigating a crime to their visuals. After 20 minutes, I remind students to share the visual with the teacher and their elbow partners for assessment. Click here for an example of student work. 

I have students create an initial visual which they modify as they learn more information and complete the project because I want students to learn that revision is one of the most important tools that scientists use when investigating  the validity of a claim. This is a relatively quick brainstorming activity and is similar to mind mapping that I use in a different lesson. During this activity really want students to choose a digital tool and become comfortable with creating multiple drafts of their presentations for this project. I use this type of visual because I wanted to give students an alternative to traditional lab reports and allows students to synthesize information from multiple sources into a multimedia project.

In the next section, I distribute an exhibition packet that asks students to take on the role of a crime scene investigator who has only basic physical evidence and needs to identify an assailant from a set of suspects as the person who killed Mr. William "Bill" Klann.

Using Velocity and Acceleration to Determine: "Who Killed Bill?"

50 minutes

After circulating the room to ensure that all of the student teams are familiar with a tech tool and create an initial visual, I introduce students to this week-long Project. I give students a Worksheet that they can use to identify the most likely suspect based on their data analysis. 

During the first five minutes I distribute and discuss the expectations project with students including the visual and written components and peer editing process. After we discuss the expectations of the project,  I remind students of the "Three Then Me" policy where they ask three of their peers for assistance before requesting my help on the project. In addition, I give students three lifelines, where they can ask any math or science teacher for guidance as long as student obtain that teacher's signature each time they use a lifeline. Students then spend 10-15 minutes completing the worksheet individually by hand. Students will spend 10 more minutes entering the data and graphing the distance vs time for each suspect's bullets using a spreadsheet.  Each group's facilitator ensures that all team members are proficient at graphing multiple sets of distance vs time data on the same axis within a single spreadsheet. Students then spend the next 10 minutes creating a visual representation of their team's agreed upon solution. As students work on the project, I circulate asking questions and taking notes on my Classwork Assessment checklist to assess if students are effectively collaborating with their peers while trying to ascertain: "Who (most likely) killed Bill?"

After each student team creates an initial visual, I ask for a representative from each group to present their data to their station mates. After each team presents their data, I ask questions about the best practices for presenting data, like creating a testable question and creating a physics experiment (SP4). Student will spend a week working on this project with a lot of independent work outside of the classroom. Examples of two groups' work can be found here and here.

Towards the end of the activity, I ask students to assess themselves and their peers using the given rubric (found in the project packet) and write their results into their notebooks.


10 minutes

To wrap up the lesson, I remind students to go over their daily progress with a math, science teacher or peer of their choice and to make sure teachers sign off on the lifeline checkbox and peers complete the peer edit sheets during the beginning of the next lesson. Students can meet with teachers and peers during our school's advisory sessions. I assess student progress each day for a week to determine if they have made progress toward completing the project according the rubric found here.  At the end of this lesson, I ask students to respond to a writing prompt: "How do investigators use physics to solve crimes?" in their notebooks. Click here to see an example of student work. I use this type of closing question because I want students to make connections between the reasoning and mathematical logic we use in physics class and real world scenarios.