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 http://bit.ly/HAoSZS. Try this challenge out and when you complete it and identify the perpetrator share your findings with us here !

Leaving our print on the world of CSI

Okay, so we promise this blog won’t be completely focused on our programs, but before we jump into the meat of STEM we want to introduce you to our CSI programs. In addition to the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites, we have a set a programs focused on Crime Scene Investigation (or CSI). Building on the popularity of TV shows such as CSI: (Enter City Name Here), NCIS, Bones, and many others, we thought that using the framework of CSI would be a great way to introduce students to the vast array of STEM used in solving crimes. Sure, the TV shows demonstrate some of this, but we wanted to take it a step further and give students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities that would excite them to learn more. Hence, our CSI Camps!

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The SMU CSI Camp program started in 2010 with a pilot summer camp offered on SMU’s campus. We welcomed 80 middle school girls from the Dallas community and introduced them to the science and technology behind CSI through various hands-on activities and expert presentations. Realizing that this was an effective (and fun) way to teach STEM content and skills, we continued building on the summer camp program and have spent the last few years expanding this program in order to offer it in communities around the country. Using the framework of a mock crime, campers at our CSI camps investigate evidence through hands-on activities and are introduced to exciting careers related to CSI.  Within this portfolio we now offer:

  • CSI Summer Camps: week-long camps for middle school students
  • CSI Camps-for-a-Day:  one-day camps for middle school students
  • CSI Teacher Workshops: ½ day, 1 day, and 2 day workshops for teachers

This blog will include information from our CSI camps including: activities and modifications to use in your community; stories from these events; and information about how to participate in these events. We will also build on the CSI content available on the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites in these posts. If you have participated as a teacher or counselor in any of our CSI events in the past and want to share your experience, please let us know!

These programs are also something that you may be able to get involved in or request for your community. If you are interested in having us come to your community to offer a Camp-for-a-Day or Teacher Workshop, please contact us at CSIcamps@smu.edu.

For a sneak peek at the happenings during a CSI Summer Camp, check out this recap video from the 2011 CSI Summer Camps.

We would like to thank the Office of Naval Research and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research for their generous support of the SMU CSI Camp programs.