By Rick Palsgrove
Someone stole gingerbread cookies from the head cook at Glendening Elementary and the students are hot on the case!
Glendening teacher Jenn Minton’s second grade class received a helping hand from the Groveport Police to solve the mystery, which included advice and assistance from Minton’s father, Groveport Police Officer Ernie Bell, as well as officers Shellie Rimmer, Kristin Didyk, and Kyle Smith.
“I was so excited to partner with my dad and the Groveport Police again for another project,” said Minton.
Bell said he enjoys being a part of projects like this at the school.
“It’s a good way to make a positive connection between the kids and the police,” said Bell.
This is the second collaboration between Minton’s students and Groveport Police.
“This is the second time we have done this type of project together,” said Minton. “The first was in 2018, when the kids helped to solve who stole Santa’s toy sack.”
For this year’s detective work, Minton said students were read the case file stating that Ms. Sheri’s (the school’s cook) gingerbread cookies were stolen.
“Then the students are provided with the suspect photos, which are photos I have taken of our staff members,” said Minton. “But each one is looking suspicious and some are holding specific clues. They also have items in the background that could possibly be reasoned as evidence, such as snacks, big bags to hide cookies, and so on.”
According to Minton, based off the photos and the case file, students make a prediction about who they think is guilty.
“Then each day, the police officers read clues that would help to eliminate a suspect, students read the written clue, and use the photos to help eliminate a suspect,” said Minton. “After clue three, students look at their initial predictions and then, like good readers, they could adjust by selecting someone new, especially if their initial suspect was eliminated, or they could confirm that their prediction was still a suspect.”
Once students get the final clue, they write up their report and submit it to Bell.
“In this report, they explain who stole the missing cookies and provide an explanation of their inferencing skills as to what clues they used to determine they had the right suspect,” said Minton.
The project enables students to learn the skill of inferencing – going beyond the author’s words to understand what is not being said in the text.
“We teach second graders to use all parts of the story – the text and pictures – as well as their background knowledge to gain information,” said Minton.
Ultimately the students deduced it was the school guidance counselor who stole the gingerbread cookies.
“Once the students solved the case, we brought her to the classroom and asked her why she did it,” said Minton. “She explained to the students that she was in the blue/red zone (feeling sad/angry) because she had a fight with a sibling and then got into trouble, all things my students can relate to.”
Once students hear the suspect’s reasons, they help her brainstorm ways to deal with those emotions and solve her problem.
“So many students tend to react to situations impulsively without thinking through the consequences, whether they be positive or negative,” said Minton. “It’s my hope that we can provide students with strategies and tools to help them think through these situations the next time one may arise.”
Engaged learning is rewarding
When asked how she came up with the theme for this year’s case, Minton said, “Dad (Bell) and I wanted to create a new case to keep the ideas fresh for students. Also, with the ‘suspects’ being real adults at school, I knew we could not only practice the inferencing skills the lesson was originally designed for, but we could add in the social emotional learning (SEL) that is a huge focus in our district.”
According to Minton, SEL is the process where students acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
She said the kids enjoy the project because they feel like they are helping the Groveport Police.
“It really makes them feel like they are a part of the Groveport Police team,” said Minton. “The visiting officers are all amazing in playing along. They show up at our classroom door with great energy and ready to interact with the students.”
She said students also enjoy projects like this because they see the real-life applications of what they are learning in school.
“Students tend to put forth more effort and are more engaged, when they know the ‘why’ behind their learning,” said Minton. “It’s the age old question, ‘Why do I have to learn this or that?’ In partnering with the police, students see how adults, outside of the school setting, are using the same skills they are learning about in their daily lives: reading skills, writing, legible handwriting, math and so on.”
Minton said Bell plays a large role in the project.
“This year he ‘deputized’ the kids and provided the badge stickers and police notebooks and pencils,” said Minton. “Once we solve the case, he is our corresponding officer, we let him know that we have solved the case. Then he comes back on the last day to thank them for helping to solve the case and working with them. Then they get to trade in their sticker badges, for little honorary Groveport Police badge pins.”