July 31st, 2009
By Chris Sheldon
It’s not every day that children get a chance to emulate a forensic scientist.
Doug Houser, of Lavallette, is a science teacher at Brick Memorial High School and has started the Lavallette CSI Forensic Science Camp at Lavallette Elementary School.
The program is sponsored by the Lavallette Municipal Alliance and consists of a week-long session of fun forensic science activities for kids ages 6 to 16.
Mr. Houser said he is excited to bring forensic science to the kids.
“The best part is to see how fascinating science is and how applicable it is to everyday experiences,” Mr. Houser said. “As a teacher, it’s exciting to see them discover something new and get excited about it.”
Mr. Houser said he started the camp in the memory of one of his favorite students at Brick Memorial, Brittany Gregory, who was murdered in 2004.
“I told her parents I would start a forensic science class in her honor,” Mr. Houser said.
The first session was held from July 13 to July 17 at Lavallette Elementary School, and another week-long session began on July 27 and is ending today. Twelve children came out for the first session and 21 participated this week.
This week began with the kids doing a crime scene investigation of a mock burglary inside the school. There there was fake blood on the floor and a screwdriver, which the children photographed. They then completed a crime scene sketch and learned how to log evidence.
They ended the day by looking at the scene of a mock robbery and shooting on the playground and they had to search the entire field for evidence, where they found a shell casing and a presumably stolen iPod.
On Tuesday the children learned about different types of fingerprints and then had to identify a suspect based on his fingerprints.
On Wednesday they made shoe prints in a box of sand, mixed them with plaster and let them harden. The children then took their plaster shoe prints home as a unique souvenir. They also learned how to use a microscope and learned about different types of evidence.
Mr. Houser said Thursday’s activity is one the children really enjoy when the Ocean County Sheriff ’s Department brought drug and explosive sniffing dogs in and told the children about what the animals are trained to do.
The kids will finish the week today by learning about blood spatter and ballistics.
“Everybody has a different opinion on what they like best, but they all find something that’s fascinating,” said Mr. Houser.
Eric Schulz, of Mahopac, N.Y., and Kristen Davis, of Armonk, N.Y., are staying at their beach house in Lavallette and said they have enjoyed the camp.
They said they enjoyed looking at fingerprints and looking at hair under the microscope.
Mr. Houser’s sons, Adam and Jonathan Houser, and one of his former students at Brick Memorial, Jo Corino, have been helping him run the camp.
“It’s exciting for me, the kids make me laugh and it’s interesting stuff they’re learning,” Adam said.
“This was a really good idea, because it teaches kids how to solve crimes and catch criminals and could be a way to start their future careers,” Jonathan said.
Mr. Houser said he is thinking about having another camp in August and expanding it next summer.
“It’s a camp, and it’s not school so as long as everybody has fun, we’ll keep doing it,” Mr. Houser said.