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CSI skills taught in school

Incorporated lesson in science fair Monday

Posted: March 13, 2009 12:33 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Estefani Jimenez, fifth-grader at Newhall Elementary School, shares her information collected for her science project titled "Which water freezes faster, tap water or salt water?" with judge Dr. Mike McGrath Monday morning.

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Twelve-year-old Summer Mendell set out on a mission to figure out which type of surface would best display fingerprints.

With the help of a fingerprinting kit she obtained during a forensic-science lesson in school, the Newhall Elementary School sixth-grader used powder, tape and a brush to dust fingerprints off metal, wood, plastic and glass.

Her results were in line with her hypothesis.

"The fingerprints on the glass were most visible," she said Monday at the school's 26th annual science fair.

The wood surface proved to be the poorest surface for tracking fingerprints, she said.

Mendell's experiment in forensic science got her thinking about a career in the field.

"Before, I didn't pay attention too much to it," she said. "Now I'll look more into it."

Mendell was one of about 20 sixth-graders at the Newhall school who tried their hands at forensic science as part of the school's science fair Monday.

Ethel Carleton, science fair coordinator, added the forensic science component to the fair as television crime shows like "CSI" gain popularity.

Students were asked if they would be interested in learning forensic science.

"Almost every hand in the classroom went up," she said.

Kelly Enos, director of the criminal justice program at Los Angeles Mission College, taught sixth-graders about the field during hands-on sessions during which students used fingerprinting kits to lift fingerprints and traced footprints to determine everything from the size of the shoe to the manufacturer, Carleton said.

The lessons resonated with the students.

"We have so many students here that are talented in drawing and using their hands," she said.

Enos wanted to illustrate what the real CSI is while showing the lists of job opportunities available at the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department and crime laboratories.

"The CSI TV series is great for us (because) it builds interest," Enos said. "At the same time, we're trying to expose (students) to what real CSI work is."

The sixth-graders and a handful of fifth-graders displayed their forensic science experiments about blood splatter, footprints and fingerprints at Monday's science fair with 300 other students who learned about earth science, physics and consumer science.

The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders took turns presenting their individual projects to about 30 judges who strolled the rows of posters.

Judges included local school leaders, council members and representatives from the FBI.

"The best way to teach science is to have kids observe and conduct an experiment," Carleton said. "We want to stimulate our kids' curiosity and interest in science by providing a hands-on learning experience."


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