From seeing color separate through chromatography to copying fingerprints, a group of Seguin ISD students turned into young forensic scientists for the week as part one of the district’s MatCamps.
A group of third, fourth and fifth graders took on several forensic lab activities for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Camp, led by Vogel Elementary fifth- grade teacher Emily Prochnow.
“It’s for kids so we try to make it appropriate to their age level. Really what we want them to learn is the science principles while they’re here, but we make it fun,” she said.
To kick off the week, the junior investigators dived into fingerprint analysis.
“The first day we start off with fingerprints because that is usually something they’re very familiar with,” Prochnow said. “They learn how to fingerprint themselves and we use some various ways of doing that.”
The students saw how their fingerprints can expand on a balloon as well as the different loops, lines and swirls on everyone’s fingertips.
To change things up this year, Prochnow brought in LED lights.
“It was really fun. I got some LED flashlights and so we turned off the lights in the room and they were able to look for fingerprints in the room,” she said. “That’s a different kind of print. It’s a latent print, not a patent print. They loved doing that.”
Third-grader Cooper Goodwin said looking at the fingerprints under the LED flashlights was his favorite part.
“I’m really into science so I thought it would be fun depending on the description that it said for the camp,” Cooper said. “My mom thought it would also be a really fun camp for me so I decided to join.”
The camp then moved on to chromatography, which is the separation of a mixture, by letting markers run in water to see their colors break down, Prochnow said.
After learning some chromatography skills, the students applied them to a crime scene lab where they broke down a tube of lipstick. On Wednesday, the group learned about plastic prints, which is an impression that is left behind on something soft. So they took teeth impressions on Styrofoam plates and chewing gum, and a shoe cast.
Having the opportunity to be hands-on in a variety of activities was something third grader Brealyn Wiedring said she enjoyed.
“I like to do CSI so I can figure out who’s the bad guy. It’s just fun because you get to do these thumbprints and do projects like the footprints we’re doing,” she said.
To close out the camp on Thursday, the students will take all the skills they learned throughout the week and work a crime scene.
“They’ll have to apply what they learned to figure out who committed the crime. We’ll have a scene that’s taped off and the body positioned on the ground,” Prochnow said. “There’ll be a ransom note on the ground that they can do chromatography on the ink.”
Prochnow, who has been leading the CSI camp for several years, said she hopes the students take something away from it.
“Everybody that wants to be a police officer thinks about this sort of thing, but what a lot of people don’t realize is there is a science career behind this as well,” she said. “As they grow up and think about what they want to do, they can get a college degree doing forensics. That is an option for them that isn’t necessarily carrying a gun if that’s not their interest.”