CSI camp: Kids explore science at Boys and Girls Club program

Students are using science, math, engineering and technology to examine simulated crime scenes this week at a camp sponsored by the Jefferson County Boys & Girls Club and hosted at Southeast Arkansas College.

SEARK instructor and former police Capt. Greg Shapiro taught the young people to examine evidence collected from a simulated crime scene. He discussed bullet shell casings, DNA evidence, fingerprints, a handwritten note, text messages on a cell phone and a whiskey bottle and other evidence related to the fictional crime.

“We’ve been teaching them about collecting evidence, fingerprinting and DNA,” Shapiro said. “We’ve already dusted and lifted prints off the whiskey bottle from the simulated crime scene.”

Real life is different than television show depictions of crime scene investigations, Shapiro said.

“Those shows are very much Hollywood and very much not true,” Shapiro said.

He is also teaching his students to use microscopes to examine evidence and to match an empty shell casing with the gun from which a bullet was shot.

Adrieana Patillo, 9, of Texas used the microscope to inspect fingerprints.

“I am learning about science and a crime scene,” Adrieana said.

Javier Delph, 11, of Pine Bluff said he learned the differences between bullets and the importance this distinction makes for investigators.

“We also used an ink pad to make our fingerprints,” said Delph, who will enter the sixth-grade at Robert Morehead Middle School in the fall. “I have a lot of friends at the Boys & Girls Club camp. It is great coming here.”

Teaching science, math, engineering and technology equips young people with valuable skills that they will use in the future when they are adults entering the workforce, said Lisa Mason, Boys & Girls Club counselor.

She said she is pleased with the camp for teaching these disciplines to the children, who range in age from 8 to 18. The girls and boys are given the same options, which lays down a foundation for future opportunities, she said.

“This is an excellent learning opportunity for kids in the summer, where they [otherwise] tend to be less focused on learning and more focused on having fun,” Mason said. “The professors are extremely engaging and see when they have the students’ attention and when they do not. And they will adjust their teaching style.”

Information technology instructor Scott Adams taught evidence gathering from cell phones, text messages, computers and Facebook.

“We are gathering electronic evidence that needs to be analyzed,” Adams said. “We set up simulations to analyze email, text messages and Facebook messages. The students used that evidence to draw conclusions. … Then they will have criminal justice evidence, [communications] evidence and biological evidence to present their conclusions.

“They have seen it demonstrated on TV,” Adams said. “Now they will see how it works in real life.”

Abraya Humphrey, 13, said she enjoyed learning these skills in Adams’ class. An incoming ninth-grader at Jack Robey Junior High School, Abraya said she used new skills to investigate a hypothetical crime.

“We used evidence to figure out different things,” Abraya said. “We did use technology on the computers to help reach conclusions.”

SEARK coordinator of student recruitment Debrah Mitchell said the camp began Monday and will end Thursday, when the students will present their conclusions.

“Education can never be taken away from you,” Mitchell said. “We discussed the careers that come from science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”