CSU, Chico News

Kids Crack the Case at Gateway Science Camp

Date: 07-02-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs

Junior investigators from Oroville School District got a crash course in forensics last week at the Gateway Science Museum’s Discovery Summer Camp held at California State University, Chico.

The 21 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders from Bird Street Elementary School spent the week analyzing human materials and other clues as they worked to crack a mock police investigation involving a missing skull.

Led by student counselors from CSU, Chico and Butte College, the children conducted litmus tests, tested urine samples and compared handwriting styles while systematically eliminating suspects. They tracked their findings in personal casebooks until, by week’s end, they had collectively deduced “who done it.”

The students’ excitement while conducting scientific processes was evident.

“It’s something they know nothing about but they see on TV and in movies all the time,” said camp coordinator Erin Johnson, who studies business at Butte College. “We work really hard to make the science fun and engaging.”

On the last day of camp, the students traveled to the Butte Creek Ecological Reserve near Forest Ranch for a day of outdoor exploration.

CSU, Chico credential students Anna Martin and Ashley Bruce and anthropology student Jose Zelaya served as counselors throughout the week.

For about five years, the Gateway has hosted camps to bring science literacy to students in an informal, nontraditional environment, said museum Executive Director Renee Renner. Separate camps are geared toward students in grades four through six and seven through nine.

The program makes a special effort to reach children in underserved areas, she said; the Bird Street school students attended camp at no cost to their families, thanks to a generous donation from Tri Counties Bank. Next week, students from Oakdale Heights Elementary School in Oroville will attend camp with donations made at the museum’s annual fundraiser, An Evening to Treasure.

“We use camp as a vehicle for introducing the kids to new things, including the college,” Renner said. “We give campus tours so they can see themselves going here and majoring in science. We try to put it in their heads that if they’re interested in science, they could come here and major in it.”

Space is still available for the Senior Detectives camp July 21–25. Camp is daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the cost is $195 per session and includes lunch and snacks. Registration information may be found online at http://bit.ly/1pXtgTm.

The Gateway Science Museum has educated and inspired North State residents since 2010. Located at 625 Esplanade in Chico, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. (Note: The museum is closed July 2–4.)

Current exhibits include “Explore Evolution,” “Era of Innovation: Past and Present” and “Changing California – Geological and Ecological Transformations.”

Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for seniors, children and students; and free for museum members. For more information, please visit www.gatewayscience.org or explore its Facebook page.