CSI: Choosing Science and Innovation: Authentic science experiences for 5th grade students (Lead PI: Bethany Melroe Lehrman)

CSI: Choosing Science and Innovation: Authentic science experiences for 5th grade students
Lead Researcher:  Dr. Bethany Melroe Lehrman (Dakota Wesleyan University)
Lead Teacher:Ms. Becky Roth (L.B. Williams Elementary)

Inspired by a one-day visit to L.B. Williams Elementary School in the fall of 2014, a team from Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) decided to organize a more extensive, interactive project. The result was the “CSI: Choosing Science and Innovation” program, developed by Dr. Bethany Melroe Lehrman in collaboration with DWU undergraduates and Ms. Becky Roth from L.B. Williams Elementary, which consisted of a series of forensic-based activities in which 5th grade students investigated a set of “crimes” that had been committed (by the undergraduates): Who stole the cookies? Who trashed the lab space? Who broke into the computer system? Who left a mess?

In order to solve the crimes, students had to rely on science. Working with the DWU students, they learned to analyze fingerprints and DNA samples, micro-pipette different liquids, and prepare electrophoresis gels, while also collecting data and making observations about the “crime” scenes. At the end of the CSI program, the 5th graders presented their evidence and heard rulings from a series of judges, who included several of the undergraduate students, the DWU Director of Student Life, and even the dean of the DWU College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences. Funds from the ASBMB HOPES grant allowed for the purchase of supplies that were used in the CSI program, primarily a set of forensic experiment kits from EDVOTEK. 

Feedback from the 5th grade students was overwhelmingly positive:

“I always looked forward to the CSI days with you and your helpers. I’m thankful for all the hard work you and your helpers put in to help us do these activities.”

“I had so much fun I almost forgot it was school.”

“I loved how you teached us about [electrophoresis]. I would love to do it again but I’m going to 6th grade so I can’t.”

The program will continue in the 2016-2017 school year as the DWU students refine the activities for another batch of 5th graders.

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5th grade students from L.B. Williams Elementary learn about gel electrophoresis from a Dakota Wesleyan University undergraduate student.   Students participating in the CSI program present evidence to the "judge" as they attempt to solve the case of "Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?"