Autopsy of a Dill Pickle-Introductory Lab for Anatomy or Forensics!

A Pickle Autopsy? YES!

If you teach Anatomy & Physiology, you know the struggle of the first unit…. it’s HUGE!! … and jam-packed with things that are absolutely essential for students to know in order to be successful in the course.  I usually struggle with finding activities to review the body cavities and directional terms.  This year, someone suggested using the pickle autopsy and I’m so glad I did!

The lab I used was published in The Forensic Teacher and would be appropriate for either discipline (I teach both this year).  Here is the link to the lab I used http://www.theforensicteacher.com/Labs_files/picklelabsheets.pdf  A clever fellow teacher friend came up with the storyline that there was a gang war between the Claussens and the Vlasics in the fridge that resulted in no survivors. I loved it so I also used that storyline to frame my lab.

Set Up– The Basics

Now that I had my lab picked out and my story to tell, I had to figure the logistics of how to get everything set up.

First, the pickles….

img_9918

I found the big jars of dills at Walmart for $5.97 each. The smaller pickles I got because I wanted some of my “victims” to be pregnant (or they could also be small children pickles lol).  I had a hard time estimating how many pickles were in the big jars, but these 2 had a total of 33 pickles– more than enough for my classes. The picture below shows them separated by “male” and “female” victims (my “male” pickles are the ones with the stems lol).

Here are all the supplies I used for the lab: img_9916

How to make them look like victims….

I glued wiggly eyes onto thumbtacks for their eyes (so I can reuse them)img_9917

I also used pellets that go in pellet guns for bullet wounds (I smashed them a little with the hammer first and dipped them into gel food coloring before I stuck them in the “victims”)img_9922

I made their heads from an olive stuck on a toothpick– some I even squished so their “brains” fell out a little lol.  I also gave all of them a “spine” (a toothpick on the dorsal side just under the skin).  I also broke several of the toothpicks so this “injury” might be discovered and included in the story of their “victim”. img_9937.jpg

All the “victims” had a bead implanted in the vicinity of their heart.  If the bead was red, they had a normal heart.  If it was black or dark purple, it represented a heart attack.  I found that if you make a slit on the side of the pickle (choose a wrinkle), it will often be completely unnoticeable and students will wonder how in the world you got those beads in there!  I also slipped in a small green bead in the neck region of a few of the “victims” and told my students I heard that some of the gang members involved in the war were caught raiding the grapes from the fridge and several choked on them when their leader caught them.

I also told them that the gang members were not healthy and many had various diseases and disorders because they didn’t take care of themselves.  Many had white beads implanted in various areas.  These beads represented a tumor in the particular area.  Knotted pieces of rubber bands in the abdominal region represented parasites.  Many had broken toothpick “limbs”.  I also had several who were pregnant.

This is the sheet of “Helpful Hints” I gave my students with their lab:

img_9941

A Snapshot of My “Victims”

I separated my “victims” into 4 general types based on their cause of death:

  1. Trauma or internal bleeding (Stabbed or gunshot, injected with red food coloring)
  2. Poisoning/ Drug Overdose (I soaked them in baking soda but didn’t get a very good result)
  3. Heart Attack (black bead instead of red bead in chest)
  4. Drowning (blue food coloring injected in chest area)

 

My “victims” had multiple things that could have resulted in their deaths, but having 4 major things just helped me keep it organized. I also put them in separate dishes while I plotted their demise 🙂 img_9926

I also kept them separate in labeled gallon ziplock bags to transport them to school. img_9927

The Lab Set Up

I set my lab up as a mini crime scene.  I had some fake vampire blood from my forensics class that I also added to help set the scene.  I also added in some extra plastic swords and pellets around the “victims”.  (I let my students pick their own “victim” from the scene). img_9948

Group Jobs

Students were in a lab group of 3 per “victim”.  In my lab, every student in the group has a specific job and job description.  It just helps my lab groups run more smoothly and tends to decrease the possibility that one student does the lion’s share of work.  These are the jobs I gave my groups for this lab: img_9936.jpg

My Take on the Pickle Autopsy Lab

Would I use it again? Absolutely!  My students became very proficient at actually using the directional terminology and identifying the body cavities that we talked about in class.  I heard many meaningful conversations within the groups… “That’s a break in his arm that’s intermediate between the shoulder and the elbow” “I think this sword went through the abdominal cavity and not the thoracic cavity”…. This was so much better than hearing them try to memorize a diagram or a chart of the directional terms!

They loved getting into our “gang warfare” story.  I had them fill out a Coroner’s Report detailing the abnormalities they found both in, and on their “victim”, as well as the location of these abnormalities.  Then, they had to determine the cause of death for their victim, supporting their opinion with specific details from their autopsy.  At all times within their report, they had to incorporate correct anatomical terminology.  Finally, they had to create a narrative of what happened to their “victim” based on the findings from their autopsy.  Several groups shared with the class.  It was lots of fun!

 

 

A Pickle Autopsy? YES! If you teach Anatomy & Physiology, you know the struggle of the first unit…. it’s HUGE!! … and jam-packed with things that are absolutely essential for students to know in order to be successful in the course. I usually struggle with finding activities to review the body cavities and directional […]

via Autopsy of a Dill Pickle- A Great Introductory Lab for Anatomy or Forensics! — Edgy Instruction

Advertisements

Improper Evidence Gathering

“[…] Improperly Photographed Impressions: If the examination involves a photographed tire impression, many things can affect the dimensional accuracy of that photograph. If the camera’s film plane (back) is not perfectly parallel to the impression, then the photograph will have a perspective problem that can affect the ability to accurately enlarge the photograph of the […]

via “Improperly Photographed Impressions”. — Mantracking

this day in crime history: august 26, 1980

On this date in 1980, two men made an early morning delivery of what appeared to be computer equipment to the Harvey’s Resort and Casino in Stateline, NV. Harvey’s employees soon discovered the “computer equipment” and the note attached to it. The note informed them that the large package was a bomb, and that it would go off unless the bombers were paid $3 million by the casino.

Police, the FBI, and the ATF were called in. Bomb squad personnel examined the object and confirmed that it was a bomb. The device, which was very sophisticated, contained a large amount of dynamite.

The decision was made to pay the ransom, then concentrate on tracking down the extortionists later. Unfortunately, the delivery of the ransom money – which was to be done by police helicopter – didn’t go off as planned. This left the bomb squad with the task of figuring out how to disarm the largest dynamite bomb anyone in law enforcement had ever seen.

After x-raying the equipment and carefully examining it, the explosive ordnance disposal experts decided that the best was to disarm it way to quickly disconnect the detonators before they could set off the dynamite. To do this, they rigged shaped charges of C-4 and positioned them so they would blow the detonators off. Sand bags were stacked around the bomb to minimize the damage in case the plan didn’t work. This was a good idea, as the plan didn’t work. The shaped charges set the bomb off, destroying most of the casino and causing some damage to the neighboring hotel. Thankfully, there were no injuries from the explosion.

As the ensuing investigation unfolded, a suspect soon emerged: a Hungarian immigrant from Clovis, CA named John Birges. Birges, as it turned out, lost thousands of dollars gambling at Harvey’s. (note to all you high rollers out there: You can lose. That’s why they call it “gambling.”) In the summer of 1981, investigators received a tip that Birges had stolen dynamite from a construction site. Forensic examination matched the dynamite used at the site with that used in the Harvey’s Casino bomb. John Birges was arrested in August 1981, almost a year after the bombing. His three accomplices were soon arrested as well. It wasn’t long before they flipped and agreed to testify against Birges in exchange for lighter sentences. John Birges was convicted of multiple state and federal crimes. He died in prison of liver cancer in 1996.

Nobody Move!

On this date in 1980, two men made an early morning delivery of what appeared to be computer equipment to the Harvey’s Resort and Casino in Stateline, NV. Harvey’s employees soon discovered the “computer equipment” and the note attached to it. The note informed them that the large package was a bomb, and that it would go off unless the bombers were paid $3 million by the casino.

Police, the FBI, and the ATF were called in. Bomb squad personnel examined the object and confirmed that it was a bomb. The device, which was very sophisticated, contained a large amount of dynamite.

The decision was made to pay the ransom, then concentrate on tracking down the extortionists later. Unfortunately, the delivery of the ransom money – which was to be done by police helicopter – didn’t go off as planned. This left the bomb squad with the task of figuring…

View original post 275 more words

this day in crime history: April 20, 1986

Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK036750-police-raid

On April 20, 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time – “Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

Nobody Move!

USPSmemorial Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK

On this date in 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time“Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

View original post

The science behind forensic toxicology

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Featured Image -- 122
WRITTEN BY: Katherine Ellen Foley

When we get our blood tested for cholesterol, it doesn’t take long to get the results. And if someone turns up at the hospital with what looks like a drug overdose, doctors can perform a quick test to verify their suspicions before treatment.
But unlike popular crime series like CSI, in which investigators whip up test results in the span of a quick montage, most forensic toxicology reports take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This can be an excruciating wait after mysterious deaths and unsolved crimes. Why does it take so long?
Quartz spoke with Robert Middleberg, a toxicologist from NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, to find out.
Unlike other medical tests, where technicians isolate a specific compound like cholesterol, Middleberg says that you don’t always know what you’re looking for with forensic toxicology. “If you have a young person who is found dead in bed and there’s no history of drug abuse, you’re looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack,” he tells Quartz.
Testing times

After a body is found and an autopsy is performed by a pathologist, a separate lab will look for any environmental or pharmaceutical toxins that could be the killers. Without any clear clues, Middleberg says they will start testing for about 400 different substances. “We never know what we’re going to get,” he notes. It takes creative intuition to guide a cycle of testing and interpreting the results of tests to inform further testing.
Once an initial analysis returns a match for a particular substance, toxicologists must gather more specifics for the official report. Bodies that have already started decaying produce some toxins naturally, like ethanol (another name for the alcohol we drink) and cyanide, so toxicologists may have to perform additional tests to determine whether these played an active role in the cause of death.
All of this is further complicated by the fact that samples often arrive in less than ideal conditions. “If somebody is pulled out of the water after being missing for two or three weeks, these samples are very, very bad,” Middleberg says.
Unlike testing in an emergency room to confirm an overdose, pathology focuses on specifics. “For [medical toxicologists], sometimes it doesn’t really matter exactly what’s there,” Middleberg says. “In our world, the pathologists want to know exactly what it is and how much.”
Not every test is a complicated affair—despite all of the unknowns, Middleberg says that most labs try to have a turnaround time of 3-5 days for ruling things out and 7-10 days for identifying the specific factors leading to death.
Looking for clues

Like detectives, toxicologists look for clues to narrow down which tests are necessary. Knowing a subject’s history with drug or alcohol use obviously helps. There are also several somewhat macabre rules of thumb that tip toxicologists off to seek substances they wouldn’t normally test for:
Bright red blood as a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning
A green brain as a sign of exposure to hydrogen sulfide
Chocolate brown blood as a sign of excess methemoglobin poisoning
Hair falling out can be a sign of chronic arsenic or thallium poisoning
Blue skin can be a sign of gadolinium poisoning
Cocaine and methamphetamines can change the shape of the heart
MOST POPULAR
Dear Jeff Bezos: My husband needed therapy after working for Amazon
SPONSOR CONTENTBY CITI
Green tech is helping restore Florida’s $40 billion economic catalyst: the Everglades