Evidence & Empathy: Forensic Science Q&A with Kathleen Caslow

Autumn Hong headshot Autumn Hong,  
5 months ago

"Nobody is bad. People make bad decisions, and I want students to learn empathy." - Kathleen Caslow

Caslow teaching at Episcopal High School.

Kathleen Caslow, a dedicated educator at Episcopal High School, garners respect for her unwavering advocacy for student growth, inclusion, and her passionate approach to teaching science. Recognized for her commitment to advancing teaching methods, Kathleen received the esteemed 2007 Frontier Fellowship from the American Physiological Society, a professional development award granted to middle and high school science teachers. Hailing from Alexandria, Virginia, she brings a wealth of experience and a fervent dedication to creating an inclusive environment that inspires students in science education.

Caslow is teaching the Inspire Summer 2024 Forensic Science class for rising 10th-12th graders at UVA | Northern Virginia. We sat down with her to learn more about her background and what’s in store for class this summer.

Q: Tell us how you developed your expertise in this field and why you want to teach this course? 

A: I was presented with the opportunity to teach this course, which I was excited about because who doesn’t love a good murder? I try to make sure it is authentic for the students. I notice the difference between this and CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) is the authenticity and it takes the fun out of it a little bit, because a crime isn’t going to be solved in two days. What I’ve learned in forensics is connecting things through stories and making things come alive through case studies. That’s how my teaching evolved to have a better way to excite them about science.

Q: What knowledge and skills can students expect to learn in Forensic Science this summer? 

A: Some of the skills are laboratory techniques, using a microscope and digging deeper into fingerprint techniques. Some skills are the actual techniques officers use and equipment they use. Trying to give them nice tools to make it fun; skulls and bones and anthropology, there are so many different directions we’ll go.

Q: Do students need a background in forensic science to be successful in this class? 

A: Oh no, it is very catered toward the high school level to get them excited. It is an introductory course to find your interest and potentially go deeper in college, or find a speciality that really interests you. There’s a lot of math involved and calculations in solving crime, or facial recognition software if people want to go into the technology side. Students can get introduced and go into what they really love.

We’ll discuss REAL experiences. I’ve collaborated with a real CSI team before, and I plan to bring that experience in. Authentic learning and experiential learning are super important to me – and fun!

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in taking Forensic Science this summer? 

A: Reach out and explore! Come find out what it’s about. Show those colleges that what you have is more than the regular curriculum. Show them you want to know more about the science world.

Q: What about this class is particularly engaging for students?

A: The ability to move around the classroom, work in groups, and problem solve. You know, I really do think it is important work in a social justice context as well. Nobody is bad. People make bad decisions, and I want students to learn empathy. We will do some mock trials, and they have to understand that it’s not just fingerprints and blood, it’s real people.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: One more note on the social justice piece. For example, the Innocence Project was started by some lawyers when DNA was discovered. They went back to old cases using DNA testing to release innocent people from prison where some had been in for 15-20 years. I think students can really connect emotionally to these kinds of stories.

Join Kathleen this summer. Forensic Science is a two-week, in-person class held in Fairfax, VA from June 17-28. Learn more about the course and apply today! Financial aid is available.