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CSI: North Colonie

Kelly Ryan, a science teacher at Shaker High School, wants her students to practice forging checks.

She had them do this as part of the school's forensics class in order to teach them how to spot similarities and differences in handwriting found on ransom notes, forgeries and other paperwork linked to criminal activity.

Ryan has taught forensics at the high school for three years, and said she is hoping to grow the program in years to come, but with state aid cuts looming, it is unclear whether an expansion is in the near future. There are 20 students who currently take the course.

Seniors can take forensics as an elective course.

The idea [for a forensics class] was to make some more electives available to them, Ryan said. "There's definitely an interest level. Forensics for myself was always an interest."

Ryan has a background in biology and chemistry and has taken a number of workshops and professional development seminars to cultivate her interest in forensics.

After seeing a presentation from Dr. Michael Baden, who worked as chief medical examiner in New York, Ryan's interest in teaching the subject solidified.

"He really sparked my interest even more in the field," she said.

Ryan said she likes forensics because it applies all sciences " biology, chemistry and physics " plus it covers math and history.

The course includes analysis of blood spattering, handwriting and documents, as well as psychology.

"The course is very lab and hands-on based," Ryan said.

"Colleges are looking for students to have a strong science background."

She said the course is also good preparation for police work, since law-enforcement agents need a background in forensics in case larger laboratories are not available. She said depending on how big a law enforcement agency is, a lot of forensics are done in-house.

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