2013 CSI Teacher Workshop

Logo_CSI Teacher CampWe were happy to welcome over 90 teachers from the local area to participate in our 2013 Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Teacher Training and Professional Certification Program at SMU. This program, conducted for local math and science teachers (and for non-math and science teachers who are interested in highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of STEM in their classrooms), included presentations and hands-on activities related to CSI and provided ideas for how to incorporate this content into participant’s curriculum.

Participants in this free training had the opportunity to:

  • Hear from education and CSI experts
  • Participate in hands-on activities from the SMU CSI Camps
  • Receive 15 hours of Continuing Professional Development credit through the Texas Education Agency
  • Network with other local teachers
  • Receive a mini-CSI kit including:
    • All curriculum (including teacher guidebook and camper workbook materials) from the SMU CSI Camps in hard copy and electronic formats
    • fingerprint scanner and other materials needed to take the activities from the camp setting directly into your classroom

This year we introduced social media engagement to the program framework. Participants communicated using a variety of outlets including in-person interaction, the STEM-Works blog, Facebook, and Twitter. The Twitter hashtag #2013CSITeachers was also designated specifically for this event, providing teachers with a forum to continue their face-to-face communication and to include teachers who were unable to participate in this conversation.

Keep reading to gain an inside look into the activities and topics addressed throughout the workshop!

Pre-conference Overview for Engagement

We 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.

As a result, we developed 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!

Day 1

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,


Participants learn to dust for fingerprints

forensic anthropology,

DSC_0013 (2)

Forensic anthropology activity

and gait recognition, to name a few.

DSC_0026 (2)

Gait recognition activity

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

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


End of day discussion

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.

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 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!

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!

One comment on “2013 CSI Teacher Workshop

  1. Pingback: Why we do what we do (and how we’re bridging the gap between our programs) | STEM-Works Blog

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