IPSF Innovative Grants Recipient Selected as OC Teacher of the Year

IPSF Innovative Grants Recipient Selected as OC Teacher of the Year

May 27, 2020

Congratulations to James (Mickey) Dickson for being named a 2021 Orange County Teacher of the Year by the Orange County Department of Education! Mr. Dickson  has been an integral part of Northwood High School’s science program since 2002 where he has taught integrated science and forensic science to grades 9, 11 and 12 and in addition to serving as department chair.

Dickson believes in inquiry-based instruction and strives to create experiences that move beyond siloed learning to help students understand connections between subjects. This mindset led Dickson and his Northwood colleagues to create the Forensics Core (FORCE) program, which, he says, represents a community-wide collaboration.

In 2018, IPSF awarded a Mega Grant to the Northwood High School Forensics Core Program, a year-long cross-curricular program that seeks to understand the nature of truth through the integration of science, psychology, and philosophy. This inquiry-based program consists of three courses: Forensic Science (Science), Forensic Psychology (Social Science), and Critical Theory and Literature (English). Students are provided with an inter-disciplinary experience devoted to developing a well-rounded understanding of not just criminal, but more generally, human behavior, promoting a hands-on approach toward researching and testing theories, and understanding different legal contexts. Students maintain a digital portfolio of their work in all three classes in order to complete and present a comprehensive inquiry-based capstone project each semester. This program also introduces students to a variety of possible majors or careers related to the criminal justice system.

This year, students have had the opportunity to participate in interactive, hands-on learning experiences that helped bring lessons to life. They simulated what it would be like to be an FBI agent reading through recent FBI reports on crime data and research, and then formally prepared and presented a briefing to the rest of the class. In a lesson on racial profiling students were able to research case law and apply to it different scenarios. This directly led to questions about rights and constitutional law. The purchase of equipment and materials for science labs has also given students a rich and memorable experience. Students completed a Time of Death lab using forensic entomology. For this lab, students had to take samples from decomposing chickens in order to determine a time of death by analyzing the life stage of the maggots on the body.

Resources provided by the IPSF grant allow students to research and drive their own learning. The program’s teachers have found their roles shifting from the traditional teacher/expert, to more of a facilitator as the research drives each students’ learning, leading to more thoughtful inquiry, richer class discussions, and deeper understanding of concepts.

Thank you to the generous parents and community members who donate to IPSF to help make programs like these possible. It is only with your support that Irvine students have the benefit of these exciting and innovative opportunities to learn and thrive!