Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Science Sleuths: Forensics For Kids

As a homeschool educator, I'm always sleuthing out new opportunities to integrate the sciences with the arts in my lesson plans. Recently, I was delighted to learn that the Science Museum of Richmond has a forensic science exhibit for kids. "Science Sleuths" is a hands-on opportunity for kids to explore the science of the human body, while developing their deductive reasoning skills.

Kids get a first hand look at the various ways forensic scientists help law enforcement professionals solve crimes. Exhibits explore the our DNA, and how our uniqueness enables investigators to narrow the scope of possible suspects. How forensic artists use witness observations to recreate an image of a suspect's face. How forensic anthropologists use what they know about human bones to identify the features of decomposed bodies. How our own digestive system can reveal the secret of a victim's last meal, or the presence of a particular insect can shed light on the approximate time of death.

These kinds of activities can become fuel for engaging creative writing projects, and home or classroom based experiments. Don't worry if you don't have a "Science Sleuths" exhibit at your local museum. You can easily create opportunities like this on your own!

For example, The Barrie School in Silver Spring, MD recently offered their students a one week forensic science program, where students were given a fabricated crime scene, and the tools to solve it.

The summer months also offer unique opportunities for kids to explore science through summer camp programs like this one, offered through the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Too far from home? Try Googling forensic science camps near you. You'll be surprised how many are offered through your local museums, universities, and recreation centers.

Like this summer camp, sponsored by the Seattle Science Foundation, where students perform crime scene investigation, forensic anthropology, fingerprinting, serology, toxicology, hair analysis, DNA analysis, and forensic psychology.

If you're an educator looking for ways to include forensic science in your curriculum, I've found some websites you should check out.

The Kids' Science Challenge offers entire units on forensic science with a downloadable curriculum for grades 2 - 12, including reading suggestions, writing topics, experiments, and discussion prompts. Click this link, then scroll a third of the way down to the section called Detective Science Project.

The Science Spot Kid Zone provides an organized list of links to websites featuring activities, experiments, videos, and resources about forensic science. Find information on everything from fingerprinting, blood analysis, entomology, accident reconstruction, and our favorite -- mysteries. For teachers, they offer links to complete lesson plans on a variety of forensic topics, such as hair and fiber analysis, DNA, chromatography, impressions, and more.

Are you a teacher or parent who's found an exciting way to introduce forensic science to your student? Have you participated in a forensic science program you think we should share with our readers? Respond in the comments and let us know! We want to hear from you.

ELLE COSIMANO set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. She lives with her husband and two young sons, and divides her time between her home near Washington, DC and a jungle tree house in the Mayan Riveria. Her YA novel NEARLY GONE will be published by Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin in March 2014, with a sequel coming in 2015. Learn more about Elle on her website, twitter, facebook, and Goodreads.


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