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Teddy’s gone missing

Students at Sylvan Way Christian Schools examine “evidence” they collected while investigating a case during the school’s first-ever Mystery Science week. - Steven DeDual/staff photo
Students at Sylvan Way Christian Schools examine “evidence” they collected while investigating a case during the school’s first-ever Mystery Science week.
— image credit: Steven DeDual/staff photo

Sylvan Way Christian Schools staff members decided to incorporate a mystery into their science fair this year to get kids thinking and interacting with one another rather than just building projects at home.

“The science fairs are great,” said Denise White, a teacher at the school and the person responsible for finding the materials used to set up the mystery. “But it is really hard to get parents not to do a lot of the stuff. We wanted to do something that would get the kids thinking.”

The school’s principal, Judy Belcher, came up with the idea to do a Mystery Science Week after reading an article in a magazine, but White took it a step further by finding a textbook which outlined how to set it up.

“The textbook we used is from the University of California at Berkeley,” White said. “We thought about doing our own, but being our first time through, we didn’t know how to even set it up.”

Students in kindergarten classes had their own mystery to solve involving the disappearance of a teddy bear, while the older children worked to solve a crime more suited for their age level. All of the children rotated through stations in their classes to test items for fingerprints, map the crime scene and discuss their findings.

In the end, they all walked away with a better understanding of forensic science and the older kids learned a lesson in reality.

“For the older kids, there is no correct answer,” White said. “The author of it never released it, even online, because when you deal with a jury, no one tells them that they convicted the right guy.”

Although the kids did not seem to like that fact, White explained it is all part of growing up.

“I told them that one of the hardest things about being a grown-up is the fact that you are the one that is supposed to know,” she added.

The lessons were made even more real by a visit from Yasuhito “Yas” Yoneda, a supervisory special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Field Office Northwest.

“It was great to tell the students what steps we were going to use to solve the case and then have someone in the field to say ‘Yes, we actually do this,’” White said.

Everyone learned about the difference between hard evidence and soft evidence and attention to detail, but for White, the best part of the week was watching kids think.

“We experienced a lot of ‘a ha’ moments,” she added.

According to White, the kids took the entire event seriously and really worked to solve their respective crimes. They can’t wait to do it again next year.

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