Campers test their problem-solving skills

Campers in Laura Leeper’s Crime Busters class will get a minds-on, hands-on introduction to chemistry and physics this week as they try to solve a variety of crimes.

First up: Mrs. Roberts and the Missing Quizzes. Mrs. Roberts went to hand out quizzes to her students, but oh, no! The quizzes had disappeared! Fortunately, a residue was left behind, and Mrs. Roberts was able to identify six likely suspects. With that starting point, our eager investigators wasted no time examining the evidence and narrowing their lists.

On Monday, students learned about examining physical evidence at macroscopic (what you can see unaided) and microscopic (what you can see with the aid of a microscope) levels. They were given samples of a few substances that resembled the mysterious residue and talked about how to apply the scientific method to crime scene investigation. (A systemic process is important to make sure data is collected properly.)

Working in teams, campers are encouraged to develop hypotheses but are reminded to be prepared to back up their claims. “Don’t just tell me ‘I think it’s this’,” Ms. Leeper said. “Make sure you can tell me, ‘I think it’s this because . . .’  You must have evidence for your thinking.”

At the end of class Monday, most groups had settled on table salt or sugar as the likely source of the residue, but more tests were necessary to reach a conclusion. As they work through this case and others, our campers will develop their critical thinking skills and get a glimpse at how what they learn in the classroom can be put to use in the real world.

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