CSI: The Lowcountry

Students at College for Kids use science to solve crime scenario

June 26, 2008 

Ten-year-old Jackson Williams thought learning about DNA and the immune system would be interesting.

He had the chance this week in College for Kids, a program offered to gifted students from local public and private schools. About 130 fifth-, sixth- and

seventh-graders are taking classes in Spanish, math, videography, science and archaeology. The classes were held at the Technical College of the Lowcountry and at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

Williams attended the "Shoestring Biotechnology" class at TCL, where students learn about DNA extraction, how to separate molecules and how DNA analysis is used to solve crimes.

Zoe Adkins, 12, said she wanted to take the class because it sounded like something on the "CSI" television show.

While some students were looking for fun, others took the class because they hope to be scientists when they grow up.

Griffin Painter, 11, wants to be a chemist. His friend Jayson Bowers, 11, wants to be an engineer in space.

Science teacher Angela Taylor gave students in her class a crime-scene scenario to solve Tuesday.

"This is the story," she said. "A man is driving down the road; he works for the government agency responsible for animals. He sees a dead dog. Farther down the road, he sees a dead cat. Then even farther down the road, he sees a dead chicken. Now that's a problem, because it's livestock."

In her story, it's a federal crime to kill someone's chicken, so the agent has to figure out what happened. At a nearby house, he sees a man whittling on his front porch. In the driveway, there is a car with blood on the bumper.

The whittler tells the man he cut himself whittling, and blood spattered on his car.

The class had to figure out if he was innocent by using a DNA analysis in a petri dish and comparing the whittler's blood -- actually, a clear liquid called serum in this experiment -- to "blood" samples of the dog, cat and chicken.

"If it is his blood, is he innocent or guilty?" Taylor asked the class.

"Innocent," some students said. "It means he was whittling."

Turns out, they were right. The man in the story was innocent.

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