Dawn Staples-Knox and Leanne Groening have a lot to be proud of. Their proposal to the National Science Teachers Association was accepted and they were invited to give a presentation in Atlanta this spring.

Their presentation was about the class they teach together at Searsport High School called "Crime" and how they incorporate science with social studies learning.

They offered the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors a glimpse of their work with a slide show at the board's May 8 meeting.

Staples-Knox, who has been an educator for 32 years, teaches the science part. Observation, deductive reasoning, collection and analysis of evidence, fingerprint analysis, DNA analysis, bone identification and using science to solve a case make up this section.

Groening, who has been an educator for 28 years, teaches the social studies part.  Statistics, crime scene analysis, history of identification, privacy rights, rights of accused, historical cases, DNA in courts, analyzing famous cases in history, and teens and the law make up this section.

Some of the historical cases they cover in the class include the trial of Lizzie Borden, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey and Hitler's diaries.

Groening said the result is "you really hook kids' interest."

The class is taught using the differentiating instruction method where the content is modified according to the student's need. The goal is to include everyone in every class.

"We believe everyone can succeed and they do," Groening said.

The students use a claim, evidence and reasoning framework to investigate and deduce. The class even took a field trip to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

A good example of combining science and history is the unit on blood splatter where students read the play "Lizzie Borden," and at the end they went back into the trial and looked for evidence.

Students did not mind doing a lot of reading and writing to back up their claims, Staples-Knox said.

In other actions

The Board of Directors unanimously approved hiring a school resource officer for RSU 20, which comprises Searsport and Stockton Springs, at the May 8 meeting.

The position will be split, with the resource officer working half of the year in the RSU 20 schools (elementary, middle and high school) and the other half for the town of Searsport, Superintendent Chris Downing said.

The town will apply for grants to fund this position and the school will pay for half, Downing said. "We appreciate the support of the board," he said.

"Will it be a prerequisite that they are a police officer?" a resident asked.

"Yes." Downing answered. "And if the feds ever pushed through arming teachers, my resignation would be on the desk before the ink dries."

A Searsport teacher said, "I can shoot a squirrel but I am not going to shoot a kid."

Principal Marianne DeRaps spoke on behalf of the proposed program of studies at Searsport High School for the upcoming year.

There was discussion of the "Independent Study Program," in which students can study beyond the existing curriculum offerings under a teacher adviser.

"Let them (students) do the work, on their own," one board member said. "When they need help, let them talk to their teacher advisers… I need teachers teaching three classes each semester — when that happens, everyone benefits."

Principal DeRaps responded, "They are learning independently already."

Staples-Knox pointed out that the program is "taking high school kids and helping them prepare for college."

Groening added, "There's a lot of different pieces and it's different for every single student. They all have their own needs… It's kind of a big process and I'm not sure they could navigate it all on their own."

Ultimately, the board approved the program.

A discussion about using the former Stockton Springs Elementary School gymnasium was tabled after someone brought up cost and liability.

Superintendent Downing offered to research those points and bring his findings to the next board meeting.