May’s Maine Event: CSI Day Camp Travels to Kittery

We found ourselves once again on the road last week as we traveled to beautiful Kittery, Maine for our 7th CSI day camp at Shapleigh Middle School. By far our biggest traveling event to date, this day camp featured students from a variety of schools in the area, including Shapleigh Middle School, Rochester Middle School, Dover Middle School, and Portsmouth Middle School. Additionally, these students were accompanied by a variety of teachers, administrators, and board members from the area and graced with presentations by the Kittery Police Department, Maine State Police, Rochester Police Department, Wells Police Department, and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. We definitely had a full house in the best possible way.

The camp began with a warm welcome from a number of community members, including Shapleigh Middle School’s principal, Anne Ellis,
DSC_0005Kittery Police Department’s Police Chief Theodor Short,


Captain William Greene, Commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,


and Officer Jay Durgin—a K9 officer with the Kittery Police Department—and Detective Chris Farley—detective with the Maine State Police.


After the group welcome, it was time to get to work! Campers returned to their classrooms to discover that there had been a kidnapping! There was only one thing to do: examine the crime scene and collect the evidence.



One of the main pieces of evidence was a cup containing a fingerprint. To learn why fingerprints are a biometric unique to each individual, and to accurately dust for and lift the suspect’s fingerprint from the cup, campers received help from the Kittery Police Department.




Students also got to get an up close and personal look at some of the vehicles that law enforcement professionals and investigators use to do their jobs.


They also learned that crime scene investigation isn’t limited to us humans—K9s also play a large role in law enforcement and investigations.





Then it was back to work, as the campers processed a note left at the scene using paper chromatography and zeroed in on the perpetrator using face recognition. Ultimately, the campers had a wonderful time, met some amazing professionals, and snuck some new science and technology skills into a really fun day.

We were so happy to bring our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program to the first northeastern community of the program. The people of Kittery and surrounding areas—students, teachers, professionals, and administrators—were wonderfully welcoming, and dove into this program with a wonderfully open and collaborative spirit. Additionally, the impact of the CSI Camp-for-a-Day was extended even further during the teacher workshop, which took place the night before the event. This workshop allowed us to share the full curriculum with teachers from all over the area so that they could, in turn, utilize these activities in their own classrooms for years to come.





We would also like to send a special thanks to Maryann Minard, School Liaison Officer with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, for all of her hard work in bringing the people of this community together for this wonderfully successful event. For additional information about this event, or any of our CSI programs, please feel free to send us a note. And for those of you who participated in this event, we would love to hear your take on the day in our comments section!




On the road again: CSI day camp travels to San Antonio

So, our relative radio silence can be explained by the fact that CSI camp season is upon us once again. Thus, on Tuesday, May 6th, we found ourselves in sunny San Antonio, Texas for our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program. This event, which featured roughly 115 6th grade students and eight middle school teachers, was kicked off by a wonderfully engaging presentation by local Air Force forensic science agents. Our camp director, and CSI camp veteran teacher, Jennifer Makins introduced this presentation, which focused on the main skills required to become a forensic science agent.


After getting acquainted with the world of a CSI agent, students traveled back to their units to discover that a kidnapping had occurred!


At this point, it was up to the students to use their observational skills to identify the key pieces of evidence that would hopefully lead them to their perpetrator.


The students were in luck, however, as the crime scene featured a cup containing the perpetrator’s fingerprint. It was then up to professionals from the Universal City Police Department to help the investigators extract the fingerprint through a fingerprint dusting activity,




then learn how the features of the fingerprint could help identify that perpetrator. The students learned that the suspect’s fingerprint type was a loop, which ultimately helped them narrow their list of suspects.

Another key piece of evidence was found at the crime scene: a note written by the perpetrator. Campers then discovered how to determine which type of marker wrote the perpetrator’s note through a paper chromatography experiment. Since each suspect on the suspect list was found carrying a different type of marker, this activity ultimately allowed the campers to further zero in on their perpetrator.

After taking a short break to refuel (i.e. eat lunch), campers learned that humans aren’t the only ones to participate in CSI. Both human and K9 members of the Air Force K9 Unit joined the campers to discuss how humans and dogs collaborate to investigate many different situations.



Campers loved the demonstration, and the dogs were in it for the snuggles.


At that point in the day, the campers had narrowed their list of suspects to three. However, they were missing a vital piece of evidence that would point to their perpetrator. That’s when they learned that a second crime had happened, and the authorities thought that this second crime was related to the crime campers had been investigating all morning. And sure enough, this second crime provided an additional piece of evidence: an eyewitness sketch. To prepare for the possibility of an additional piece of evidence, students learned how the features of the face can be used in identification through a facial recognition activity.


In this activity, students learned how to create ratios by measuring the distances between the features on a person’s face and how those ratios can be unique to each individual.


Oh, and they had a little bit of fun, too.


The last step was to determine whether or not the two crimes were in fact related to each other. To do this, campers looked at photos to see if the crimes looked alike

DSC_9919and examined the fingerprint type of the perpetrator of the second crime to see if it matched their fingerprint from the morning. After doing this, the campers did find these two crimes to be related, then used the suspect sketch from the second crime to determine whodunit!


As always, we had a wonderful experience bringing our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program to a new community in the United States. The people of Kitty Hawk Middle School—students, teachers, and administrators alike—were some of the best we’ve worked with yet.. Additionally, the impact of the CSI Camp-for-a-Day was extended even further during the teacher workshop, which took place the night before the event. This workshop allowed us to share the full curriculum with teachers from all over the area so that they could, in turn, utilize these activities in their own classrooms for years to come.





CSI Day Camp Travels to Virginia Beach

Last Tuesday, February 25th, our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program was back on the road as we traveled to Brandon Middle School in Virginia Beach, VA. Since we hadn’t been out and about since our Colorado Springs event in November, it was nice to get out and stretch our CSI legs yet again.

This event, which featured roughly 85 6th grade students and six middle school teachers, was kicked off by a wonderful presentation by the local branch of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS). These professionals introduced campers to the science, technology, engineering, and math skills required of CSI professionals,

DSC_0017DSC_0012DSC_0013and one camper even got to try his hand at swabbing an agent’s cheek for DNA.

DSC_0019After getting acquainted with the world of a CSI agent, students traveled back to their units to discover that a kidnapping had occurred! The crime scene featured evidence that the campers would use to narrow down their suspect list during the fingerprint dusting activity,

Forensic Technician Megan Watson of the Virginia Beach Police Department leads campers through the fingerprint dusting activity.

Forensic Technician Megan Watson of the Virginia Beach Police Department leads campers through the fingerprint dusting activity.



the fingerprint sensor lab,

Students learn all about the different components used to analyze fingerprints in the Fingerprint Sensor Lab.

Students learn all about the different components used to analyze fingerprints in the Fingerprint Sensor Lab.


and the paper chromatography activity.

Brandon Middle School teachers help students determine which marker wrote a note found at the crime scene in the paper chromatography activity.

Brandon Middle School teachers help students determine which marker wrote a note found at the crime scene in the paper chromatography activity.


Additionally, two professionals from the Virginia Beach Police Department’s K9 Unit—officer Curila and Rudy—discussed what a day in the life of a K9 officer is really like, and gave the students tips on how to train for and pursue a career working with K9s.


The fingerprint dusting, sensor, and paper chromatography activities helped students narrow their list of suspects from twelve people to three, and campers were finally able to hone in on the perpetrator during the Closing the Case activity.


Once again, we had a wonderful experience bringing our CSI Camp-for-a-Day program to a new community in the United States. The people of Brandon Middle School—students, teachers, and administrators alike—really embraced this program with open arms, and dove right in to the project-based and inquiry-based curriculum. Additionally, the impact of the CSI Camp-for-a-Day was extended even further during the teacher workshop, which took place the night before the event. This workshop allowed us to share the full curriculum with teachers from all over the area so that they could, in turn, utilize these activities in their own classrooms for years to come.

Virginia Beach teachers dust for fingerprints at the teacher workshop.

Virginia Beach teachers dust for fingerprints at the teacher workshop.

DSC_0072While those of you who frequent this blog are likely familiar with the structure of our CSI camp programs, we often don’t stress the impact these programs have on communities all across the US. By involving local teachers in this program, we can extend the use of this curriculum far beyond just the students who attend our one-day event. The major goal of this traveling program is to extend the reach of our CSI summer camp program nationally. We project that our traveling camps-for-a-day will have the opportunity to reach roughly 45,360 students throughout the duration of the program, assuming each teacher uses the curriculum with 5 classes of 18 students per year. In this way, we are able to further accomplish our overall mission to increase the number and diversity of students interested in pursuing STEM education and careers.

CSI Day Camp Takes Colorado Springs by Storm!

Last week our team traveled to the beautiful city of Colorado Springs for our 4th CSI Camp-for-a-Day. Ok, you may be thinking “4th? But this is the first I’m hearing of them!” So allow us to back up.

Our CSI Summer Camp program has been one of our largest STEM programs for the past three years. Seeing as how these camps only take place in the Dallas area, we thought it would be a great idea to condense the program and travel the country with a series of day camps. So, after a pilot program fielded in Killeen, Texas in 2012, we packed up our camp materials and brought our CSI day camps to a number of military communities around the country in 2013.

During our CSI Camps-for-a-Day, our campers are able to gain hands-on experience with the STEM behind crime scene investigation. While a one-day time frame isn’t quite enough to sneak in all the activities from our summer camps, campers are still able to gain CSI skills in order to solve a mock crime. By teaching fingerprint dusting and sensor, paper chromatography, and face recognition analysis, these camps help students around the country gain a first-hand introduction to our project and STEM-based CSI curriculum and gain an introduction to CSI careers.

So, now back to Colorado Springs. This event took place at the wonderful Falcon Middle School, and included roughly 90 sixth and seventh grade students and 6 teachers. These sixth and seventh grade students moved through a crime scene investigation activity,fingerprint dusting and sensor activity, paper chromatography activity, and a facial recognition activity. Students then applied these skills to fit all the pieces together and determine the identity of our perpetrator!

Fingerprint Dusting activity

Fingerprint Dusting activity

Paper Chromatography Activity

Paper Chromatography activity

Additionally, campers had the opportunity to interact with local law enforcement and military professionals. The camp started off with a presentation Officer Wes Woodworth from the Colorado Springs Police Department and Rachel Brown, an Explorer from the CSPD’s Explorer Program. These two presenters introduced campers to the skills and tools crime scene professionals use in their investigations. After the presentation, these two split up, as Rachel led the fingerprint dusting activity, and Officer Woodworth took campers on a tour of his police car.

Officer Woodworth and Rachel Brown

Officer Woodworth and Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown leads Fingerprint Dusting activity

Rachel Brown leads fingerprint dusting activity

Campers check out the police car

Campers check out the police car

Woodworth and Brown

Woodworth and Brown

Campers were also treated to a presentation by the Ft. Carson K-9 unit. These professionals introduced campers to a few of their wonderful working dogs and to the duties these dogs carry out.

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This camp was such a huge success, and we are wonderfully grateful to all who attended. Everyone was extremely engaged, from the students, teachers, and administrators at Falcon Middle School, to the wonderful guests from the Colorado Springs Police Department and Ft. Carson.

Falcon Middle School teachers and principal (middle)

Falcon Middle School principal (middle) and teachers

But don’t just take it from us, check out this great article about the event and this wonderful video, which was put together by District 49 media.

And just in case we made you terribly sad that you couldn’t personally attend this event, you can still participate in solving this crime through our “Closing the Case” scavenger hunt!


Why we do what we do (and how we’re bridging the gap between our programs)


I wanted to start this post by thanking all of you who are taking the time out of your busy lives to check out our blog. On Friday, we officially hit the 6 month mark for this blog and were excited to surpass 5,000 visits to this site in that period. We are honored to be a part of such an incredible community and look forward to continuing sharing the STEM content, ideas, and stories that intrigue us. I hope that our blogs amuse, inform, and even sometimes challenge you and the way you think about and advocate STEM. We always welcome your thoughts and insight so please send us a note or comment on our posts to engage in this important conversation!

This week we hit the road to visit old and new friends in Colorado to host a CSI Teacher Workshop and CSI Camp-for-a-Day and thought it would be a great time to explain a little more about why we do the things we do and how our various efforts are more connected than they may seem at first glance.

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

As you may (or more likely not) have noticed, we have two distinct sets of programs within our STEM portfolio: our STEM websites (KidsAhead & STEM-Works) and our CSI camps (Summer camps, camps-for-a-day, and teacher workshops). The websites are the internationally-reaching arms of our portfolio and aim to provide students and advocates around the world with engaging STEM content from around the Internet. Since we pull quality STEM content from around the Internet, as well as add our own novel content, these sites are a great place to find all kinds of materials to advocate STEM (and in the case of KidsAhead, it’s a great place to have your students check out for content that interests them).

On the other side of the portfolio, we have our CSI Camps. This includes three different programs:

  • CSI Summer Camps: offered in Dallas, TX and include a full week of hands-on activities and engaging presentations from real world forensic scientists and law enforcement officials
  • CSI Camps-for-a-Day: a condensed version of our summer camps offered over the course of one day in military-connected communities (we’re headed to Colorado Springs now to meet our next group of teachers and students!)
  • CSI Teacher Workshop: a program geared toward teaching our SMU CSI curriculum to teachers and providing them with resources to successfully utilize this curriculum in their classrooms and communities

So, now that you have a basic overview of the work that we do, and in honor of our CSI events in Colorado this week, we decided to launch a special edition of our bi-monthly scavenger hunts on KidsAhead to bridge the divide between our websites and CSI programs. This scavenger hunt, which was launched yesterday, invites you to take part in the fun and help to solve a mock crime that is related to the one that was investigated this week at our CSI Camp-for-a-Day. For more information about this “Closing the Case” scavenger hunt please visit Try this challenge out and when you complete it and identify the perpetrator share your findings with us here !

2013 Teacher Workshop CSI Unit Ideas

During the last session of our 2013 CSI Teacher Training and Professional Certification, teachers were sorted into groups to incorporate their CSI knowledge into CSI units for their own classrooms. These teachers created a myriad of ideas for excellent project-based CSI units applying to all grade levels. Since workshop participants were kind enough to share their ideas with us, we thought we’d pass these ideas along to the greater CSI and STEM communities. Here’s what they came up with:

I Am Not Who I Thought I Was

This unit is based on the recent case of Paul Fronczak, who discovered at age 50 that he is not related to his parents. In this unit students will “re-open” this case to help Paul discover who he really is. Activities such as DNA analysis, crime scene investigation, ear recognition, and others all apply to this unit.

Freshman Class Amazing Race – Case of Whodunit

This unit is designed to help teachers gain “buy in” from incoming freshman students. During this unit, the students will find out that the principal has gone missing and it’s up to them to solve the case. This unit pulls in many different classes and utilizes CSI skills required from each of the subjects. For example, the drama and/or art department can set up the crime scene, and math and science classes can utilize biometrics activities, fingerprint dusting, and DNA analysis. Once they solve the crime, students would then create a video presenting their conclusion to be voted on by the student body.

Case of the Stolen Exam Key

This unit also pulls in many different disciplines to allow students to solve the case of the stolen exam key. This two-day unit would be led by the forensics department, but would incorporate gait analysis in math classes, identification/translation of foreign language spoken by witness in language classes, and report write-ups in English department. This case will ultimately end in a mock trial.

Graffiti in the Restroom

This is another interdisciplinary whodunit case that solves the case of graffiti found in the restroom. Paper chromatography will feature into this crime, and the history of graffiti can be explored by history classes.

What Does the Perfect Crime Look Like?

This unit examines how criminals get caught. Common crimes will be researched, allowing math classes to conduct statistical analysis, English classes to do character development, and science classes to conduct related CSI activities. This unit can also incorporate other variables to allow students to consider other possible mechanisms for getting caught. Students will then develop realistic “perfect crimes” and present them.

Whodunit? Case of the Stolen Phone

A phone was stolen by a staff member. This unit limits the amount of instruction, and instead incorporates question only. During this 6 week group project, students have to come up with the suspect, turn in notes, graphs, charts, pictures and case files. Students will spend one day per week of class time on this project, and the different methods of CSI investigation learned in class will be incorporated into homework.

Whodunit? Missing Money at a Car Wash

Evidence for this unit includes a grainy video and a size 6 shoe print. The suspects are the students, and students need to determine which technique will be most effective in catching the suspect. Students must chose 3 techniques of all the techniques taught, create a report, and reenact the crime. This is a 2 week project, and students will work in groups of 3.

Whodunit? Destroyed Science Lab

A professor finds a crime scene at a destroyed science lab. Elementary students will collaboratively work together to collect fingerprints, conduct paper chromatography, interview suspects, etc. Many grades will be included, and younger grades will do the soil sample for Texas TEKS.

Found Object – Find the Owner

Students will find the owner of a found object using CSI techniques. Students will be placed in groups and decide which methods would best allow them to solve this mystery.

Whodunit? Coffee Half-full

A teacher comes back to find her coffee half full. This problem will incorporate interdisciplinary curriculum, and different teachers will do different things. This inquiry-based learning scenario will bring the  kids and teachers together.

Accident at School

This unit allows students to determine the cause of an accident at school based on evidence such as ice and skid marks. Science and math classes can work together to assess the situation, English classes can write-up the accident, social studies classes can talk about which laws will apply, and theater classes can recreate the accident.


Many thanks to all of our workshop participants for coming up with such wonderful unit ideas! Do you have additional ideas for incorporating CSI into your classroom? Tell us about it!

Teacher Workshop Day 2

The second and final day of our CSI Teacher Workshop was a huge success. We kicked the day off with a focus on law enforcement careers, as Special Agent Ron Goates, NCIS, and Special Agent David Marshall, FBI, joined our teachers for a panel discussion.


SA Ron Goates (left) and SA David Marshall (right)



Participant Pamela Gantt-Lee and SA Goates


Participants take time to pose with SA Goates

These law enforcement officials revealed the diversity of the skill sets needed in their respective organizations and gave teachers practical information about how students can go about pursuing these careers. “It’s a world we don’t get to see on a daily basis,” explained participant Gavin Eastep, and participant Elizabeth Lattier was happy to find out that kids can bring such a wide variety of skillsets to these organizations.

Teachers then broke out into groups to continue yesterday’s exploration of subjects such as biometrics, change blindness, and soil analysis,

Hand geometry - one of the biometrics activities

Hand geometry – one of the biometrics activities


Mentor Jennifer Makins discusses change blindness.


Soil analysis activity

before turning their focus to DNA. A DNA extraction activity kicked off our two-part DNA segment, allowing teachers to learn first-hand how to extract DNA from a strawberry.

Like our campers, they smashed,




and took home their own sample of DNA.


Teachers then came together for a presentation on DNA electrophoresis. During this presentation, participants learned explored genetics, and learned how to conduct their own DNA electrophoresis experiment with their students.

DNA electrophoresis presentation

DNA electrophoresis presentation

After giving participants hands-on experience with some of our CSI activities, we decided to try something new. Participants spent the final session in groups applying their new CSI knowledge to create project-based units of their own. Teachers were paired with other teachers from their grade level and came up with wonderful ideas for how to incorporate CSI into their own classrooms.




During this session our teachers came up with a wide variety of wonderful ideas for CSI units at all grade levels. Stay tuned to read all of these wonderful ideas and adapt them for use in your classroom!

Teacher Workshop Day 1 Takeaways

We accomplished a lot during the first day of our two-day teacher workshop. Today’s session began with a presentation and discussion on project-based learning and inquiry-based learning by Dr. Dara Williams-Rossi. During this presentation, teachers learned how to approach the process of learning through projects and inquiries, and how this might be incorporated into their classrooms.


Teachers then gained hands-on experience with many of our CSI activities, including fingerprint dusting and sensor,


forensic anthropology,

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and gait recognition, to name a few.

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Participants had a chance to discuss how the activities might be modified to fit their classrooms and share any previous experiences they may have had with the subject matter.

At the end of the day our group came back together to discuss their main takeaways from the day.


In general, teachers

  • Appreciated the implementation of technology, such as the XBOX Kinect, into classroom CSI activities
  • Learned from their interactions with teachers of different grade levels and disciplines
  • Wondered how to pull engineering into the CSI framework

To hear more from the teachers, and to participate in the CSI conversation, head on over to Twitter and use #2013CSITeachers.

CSI Conversation

Logo_CSI Teacher CampWe are so excited to welcome roughly 100 local teachers onto our campus for our third annual CSI Teacher Workshop! We had a record amount of applicants for the two-day training session this year, which means that word has been spreading about our CSI programs. Though we opened this training up to more teachers than ever before, we still were not able to accommodate all of the applicants and interested teachers from across the country.

Though we were not able to accommodate all of the interested parties, we wanted to provide a way to facilitate a conversation between camp participants, mentors, staff, and the greater CSI community. To get the CSI conversation going, we have provided three questions for participants, as well as the greater community, to discuss throughout the duration of the workshop. These three questions are:

  1. What is your experience with CSI subject matter, and which of the activities from the workshop (see workshop schedule) are you most or least comfortable with?
  2. How can you incorporate these CSI activities and others into your classroom?
  3. How do you think these activities could be modified to fit the needs of your classroom?

You can discuss these questions via Twitter by using #2013CSITeachers, on our Facebook page, or by commenting directly to this post. But don’t feel limited to discussing these questions only. We also want to hear about your insights, “aha” moments, and experience with the subject matter and your fellow participants!


CSI Final Day

For the last day of camp, we really wanted to have a bit of fun. So, after a morning “Harlem Shake” warm-up…


we were visited by Denton County Sherrif’s Office.

The representatives from the Denton Sherrif’s Office provided campers with an inside look into their job duties, and allowed campers to do a little exploring.