Weekly roundup: Investigating Salem in 1692, cheering a hero’s return, competing for scholarships, and more

A group of students from Thurston Middle School in Laguna Beach recently conducted a mock crime-scene investigation based on one of America’s most infamous criminal justice cases — the Salem witch trials.

The young investigators, who are enrolled in Thurston’s forensic crime class and club, worked with five Laguna Beach Police Department detectives on March 21 to gather grisly evidence from nearby Alta Laguna Park, which doubled for Gallows Hill in Salem, Mass., circa 1692.


As the Orange County Register reports, the middle schoolers discovered three “bodies” that showed definite signs of foul play, along with skeletal remains that were partially buried and covered in ashes.

“Working with the police, they see firsthand what it’s like,” teacher Michelle Martinez told the Register. “They also see it’s tiring and hard work.”

According to the newspaper, Thurston’s forensics program received $5,000 in grant funding through a Cox Communications initiative that helps advance science and technology in schools.

Here are some additional education stories from the very newsy week that ended March 29:

  • Public school enrollment in Orange County has declined for the eighth straight year, according to figures just released by the state Department of Education. The trend, which mirrors statewide figures, has been attributed to the high cost of living and other factors.
  • Fifty students representing a dozen local high schools vied for $30,000 in college scholarships at the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association’s 26th annual Automotive Technology Competition. The event was held at Hyundai’s headquarters.
  • Fullerton Union High’s Biology Engineering Arts Science Technology program, or BEAST, teaches students how they can use science to bring movie-like figures — including zombies — to real life. The goal is to encourage young people to think differently about science.
  • Irvine’s Woodbridge High School earned a top-10 finish at the California Academic Decathlon after securing its third-straight Orange County championship in February. Granada Hills Charter School from Los Angeles took first place in the state contest and will represent California next month.
  • OCDE’s Pacific Coast High School has become a mock trial powerhouse, reaching the county championship two of the last three years. But there’s a lot more to the Tustin-based, independent-study school than competitive courtroom battles. The OCDE Newsroom has compiled a list of six things you might not know about PCHS.
  • Nearly 200 districts from across the state have reconfigured their school boards so that trustees are elected from specific geographic areas rather than their districts at-large. The goal is to improve representation within diverse communities.
  • Students and families gathered at Marina High on Saturday for the Huntington Beach Union High School District’s annual STEAM Expo, based on the theme “A Brighter Tomorrow.” The Daily Pilot has a gallery of photos.
  • Raymond Temple Elementary School was one of 18 schools in the country recognized this year as a School of TechXcellence by District Administration magazine. The campus, administered by the Centralia School District, encourages its educators to expand their tech skills through an online learning platform.
  • Thousands of local third-, fourth- and fifth-graders descended upon UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park to learn about the importance of protecting California’s water supplies during the 23rd annual Children’s Water Education Festival. The event, chronicled in a Daily Pilot photo gallery, was organized by the Fountain Valley-based Orange County Water District, the Disneyland Resort, the National Water Research Institute and the OCWD Groundwater Guardian Team.
This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates or following us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.