Students Use Project Management to Solve a Mock Crime Scene


21 July 2016

Kendra Modzelewski

Written by Kendra Modzelewski

Topics Youth

Fingerprinting kit

Careers in Public Safety course challenges students to collect forensic evidence, and secure a grand jury indictment

Secondary school teacher Randy Fitt of Napa High School in California teaches his students valuable life skills they can take with them into the real world. His course, Careers in Public Safety, allows students to explore a career path in public safety in a hands-on way. The program enlists project management (PM) to nurture student success.   

Throughout the year, various projects are embedded into the course curriculum.  At the onset, Mr. Fitt intentionally begins with no project management focus. This allows the students to execute projects however they decide.  The result is simple: “They flail,” he explains, “but upon reflection, they realize that it’s good to organize and appoint a team leader.”   From there, Mr. Fitt uses components of PMIEF’s Project Management Toolkit for Teachers™ to support the students’ development of PM knowledge.  His students use the warm-up activities from the Toolkit, and play The Tower Game to better understand PM concepts.  To gain more knowledge about the Toolkit and how to implement it in his classroom, Mr. Fitt completed training through the local nonprofit NapaLearns, a PMIEF grantee.

As a final project, Mr. Fitt’s students get to play the role of agent in a mock crime scene.  The crime scene, carefully constructed by Mr. Fitt, includes a chalk outline, a bullet casing, littered wine and soda bottles, and electronic devices.  Using PM as a guide, each project team is responsible for managing the project deliverables – and securing an indictment for the murderer!  

Students collect evidence and maintain a chain of custody.  They trace serial numbers from the property found at the crime scene.  They conduct forensic testing on the saliva on the bottles at the scene and dust for fingerprints.  Finally, they prepare a presentation to deliver to the grand jury.  Mr. Fitt incorporates benchmarks into the project to support the teams.

After their experience, many students may be inspired to pursue a career in public safety or project management, but Mr. Fitt is not concerned if they choose to follow a different path: “Every field [the students pursue] will, at some point, need a project manager.  This is just a tool they’re adding to their tool belt.”