Through the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) Science School, fourth graders across Ohio are learning some of the behind-the-scenes skills used to help solve crimes.
The BCI Science School introduces young people to forensic science, criminal investigation, and related careers they may not otherwise have considered. The curriculum is available free of charge to teachers and students across Ohio.
Our goal is simple: We want kids to walk in the shoes of a detective or a forensic scientist and engage some of the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that professionals bring to the task. We want them to see how the science they about learn in school can be applied to real-world challenges. And we want them to start thinking about a career in forensic science or criminal justice.
So far the responses have been encouraging.
Perrin Woods Elementary School in Springfield, Ohio was the first in the state to participate in the program. When I visited the school in December of 2014, Perrin’s principal, Dr. Nena Dorsey, enthusiastically supported the BCI Science School. “At this young age we’re really trying to build their interest in science and math tied into literature,” she said, “and the program fit perfectly with what we’re already trying to do.”
Earlier this month I visited Herbert Mills STEM Elementary School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio – a suburb of Columbus – where Tracy Martz, a fourth grade teacher, said her students “love” the BCI Science School. She told me that “It just hooked them from the beginning” and enabled many students to be “really good problem solvers.”
Ten-year-old student Jarrod, who said he “likes to get my hands dirty,” thinks he’ll become a scientist – and maybe do fingerprinting someday for a BCI lab – when he grows up. He didn’t know this was an option before he began exploring the BCI Science School at Herbert Mills.
The BCI Science School is a flexible series of free lesson plans that can fit in with each teacher’s needs, whether the teacher chooses to complete one lesson every day or opts for a lesson every week. While the curriculum was developed primarily for use in fourth grade classrooms, the BCI Science School can be adapted for after-school programs, summer camps, and homeschool settings.
The BCI Science School includes 26 lesson plans aligned to the Ohio Department of Education’s fourth-grade standards and incorporates a STEAM-based – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – curriculum. Videos shown throughout the lessons put students alongside BCI agents in the field and forensic scientists in the laboratory.
Students use hands-on experiments and inquiry-based learning to “solve” fictional crimes. During the process, they learn about cyber-crimes (cell phone pinging and records); thermal energy detection; tracking suspects through the criminal intelligence unit; collecting evidence at crime scenes; fingerprints; DNA; handwriting on questioned documents; chemistry (chromatography); trace evidence such as fracture matches and shoeprints; and tool marks.
But the BCI Science School experience isn’t limited to science. Students learn how to analyze, how to think critically, how to write clearly and logically, and even link some social studies. BCI’s Science School combines different disciplines in ways that enable the students to have fun applying them.
I encourage every elementary school in Ohio to take advantage of the BCI Science School. The curriculum and a short video about the program are available at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/BCI.
Mike DeWine is Ohio’s Attorney General and guest columnist.