ImpactSpring 2013

Making science cool for kids

Thanks to shows such as “CSI,” “Cold Case,” and “Dexter,” now everyone thinks they can be the latest crime-solving gumshoe in town. But in case you don’t know the difference between a human bone and a chicken bone, a group of students at UIndy is hoping to change that. In the spring of 2012, Assistant Professor Krista Latham started a registered student group called FOUND—a creative-license acronym for Forensics at UIndy—and has a mission of stim-ulating interest in the forensic sciences through education, professional development, and service. Latham, who teaches in both the Biology and Anthropology departments, wanted to raise awareness among UIndy students about careers in forensic sciences and also to allow group members to go out and interact with the community.

“Our goal is to encourage enthusiasm for the forensic sciences at UIndy and in Central Indiana,” explains Latham. Students in the group meet twice per month and plan outings to area crime labs and forensic laboratories to learn more about career options. They also focus on professional development and encourage students to attend scientific meetings in order to interact with professionals. The group members are not only attending local lectures and workshops, but national and regional forensic meetings as well. In addition to the professional development experience, students are heading out to area elementary schools and organizations to teach. Last year, the group presented to a group of elementary kids at the John H. Boner Community Center, to another group of kids at the Indianapolis Zoo, and at two local schools. At the Orchard School in Indianapolis, FOUND was part of a week-long camp for third-grade girls in order to get them excited about science. UIndy students brought in a collection of animal and human bones and arranged for plenty of hands-on activities.

“The UIndy students did a fantastic job and the girls learned so much,” says Debbie Underwood, a teacher at the Orchard School. “The week really encouraged the girls to pursue careers in science and the presentations from the UIndy students got them excited about science.”

FOUND also traveled to Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center to present as part of the Adrenaline Academy, an interdisciplinary academy that is designed for students with an interest in health and human services. The UIndy group has already received an invitation to return. “These experiences are great for our UIndy students,” says Latham. “It has given them public speaking experience and forces them to be the authority on a topic and to teach it. It’s a great opportunity for them and looks good on a résumé or if they are applying for graduate school.”

This spring, FOUND will head out to the Children’s Museum to host a hands-on activity about forensic DNA for fifth through eighth graders, and they also will have a lecture for adults at the Indiana State Museum on forensic anthropology. “This group has really taken off and it’s been great,” says Latham. “Forensics is an easy way to get kids excited about science, and our group members are having a fantastic time.”

the authorMarty