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Soldiers help students learn ways of CSI

Teenagers becoming crime-scene detectives

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Finding ways for teenagers to learn science and math can be a struggle. But when you incorporate a popular TV series, well, that's changes everything.

One hundred sixth- and seventh- grade students from Mann and Pioneer Middle Schools participated in a CSI Camp-for-a-Day event at the Historic Fort Steilacoom School District headquarters on Oct. 26. There, students were invited to use real-life investigation techniques to help solve a crime.

The Military Child Education Coalition and Caruth Institute for Engineering Education at Southern Methodist University hosted the CSI Camp-for-a-Day event. About a dozen Joint Base Lewis-McChord personnel volunteered along with school officials, SMU students and staff.

Teenagers were presented a mock kidnapping crime and given bits of evidence to solve the case. By the end of the day, one of the six units will have solved the crime and nabbed the suspect. The purpose of the camp is to increase the number and diversity of kids pursuing science, technology, engineering and math, according to an SMU press release.

"One of the goals is to inspire kids to think outside the box," said Lindsey Groark, STEM program director.

Strawberry DNA extraction was one of the hands-on ways students applied science Sameen Ali, research assistant and senior at SMU, led the course and showed them a step-by-step process of extracting DNA from a strawberry and placing it in a small container.

It was Pioneer seventh-grader Kayla Thompson's favorite part of the camp.

"I thought it was unique, because you can't do that in school," Thompson said, whose father, Maj. Kenneth Thompson, is deployed in Afghanistan.

From fingerprinting to DNA extraction, each student embodied the work of a detective or a forensic scientist. Rurik Lancaster, seventh-grade student at Mann, was a member of the Bravo team. He thought the camp was exciting.

"I've been learning how to dust fingerprints and pick up footprints and understand a crime scene," he said. "I've been into the adventure."

The DOD-funded event is designed around major installations, Groark said, because military officials teach campers about the tools they use in their daily jobs. Bill Foster, a Tacoma Police Department detective, introduced campers to careers within law enforcement.

The CSI Camp-for-a-Day is normally a weeklong camp but SMU held a pilot program where it was condensed into a 5-hour program for teenagers. Last week was the first time it had been incorporated.

For teenagers like Lancaster, the mystery-solving application kept his interest level high.

"It's a whole new learning experience," he said.

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