Serial Killer Fridays Kills It at Tompkins

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Rachel Bregnard

With a flashlight in hand, senior Kevin Gaudet gingerly curls his fingers around the entrance’s silver handle and twists the knob. The door opens with a soft creak, revealing a room submerged in darkness. From his position in the doorway, Gaudet could see the faint outline of a skeleton standing behind a table. Blood splatters were placed sporadically across the brick walls and a dissonant melody thickened the air, adding to the room’s overall eerie atmosphere. Dozens of students sat silently with a notebook opened before them, each illuminated by a personal flashlight. He slowly moved towards his assigned seat and then abruptly halted, momentarily redirecting his attention towards the screen located at the front of the classroom. In the center of the board, written in scarlet lettering, the words ‘Serial Killer’ were spelled out before his very eyes.

 “The most enjoyable aspect of Serial Killer Fridays is that it allows me to see the perspective of a murderer. When I know the killer’s backstory, it becomes easier to identify their motivation and methods,” said Gaudet.

 Despite the wide array of unique projects and fascinating experiments the students regularly participate in, Serial Killer Fridays are, by far, the most anticipated assignment of the forensics class. At the beginning of every Friday, students are introduced to visual and auditory clues regarding the titular murder and then attempt to predict their identity. Once time is called, teacher Stephanie Chronister delivers a lecture concerning the killer’s motivations and background. A presentation is also displayed during the lesson to provide students with a deeper insight into the serial killer’s characteristics by depicting significant evidence such as: snapshots of the crime scenes and victim testimonies. During the lecture, students summarize the murderer’s life story and develop criminal profiles, occasionally, incorporating entertaining aspects of the killer’s personality into the final product. 

 “During the class period, I turn off the lights to create the most engaging environment for my students. While having fun, they’re also learning how to profile and write reports concerning criminal activity,” said Chronister. 

 During her first year of teaching, Chronister would begin every Friday class by playing an episode of Forensic Files. However, at the suggestion of one of her students, she decided to create a new program under the pretense of providing her classes with an interesting yet informative activity. At the beginning of the semester, students received a survey depicting an extensive selection of both ancient and modern murders. Utilizing this knowledge, Chronister created presentations about the most popular killers and connected their signature tactics to the weekly unit. Through Serial Killer Friday, students are now able to easily classify between disorganized and organized killing. The PowerPoint also grants students a unique opportunity to review the advances in DNA testing and forensic technology. 

  “The entire point of Serial Killer Fridays is to introduce students to forensics technology in a truly unforgettable way. However, if a student feels overwhelmed, they are more than welcomed to sit in the hallway until the lesson is over,” said Chronister.