Criminal investigations aren’t something people typically associate with 4-H, but recently area students participated in a camp where they learned how to solve crimes.
Last week, Davidson County 4-H hosted students from five other local counties for a three-day summer camp focused on criminal investigations using science, technology, engineering and math.
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“The main goal is to introduce kids to forensics and STEM education, but also teach them about potential criminal justice career fields they can go into. They can interview local professionals and learn what it takes to get into those positions,” said Matt Barber, 4-H and Youth Development Agent for the Davidson County NC Cooperative Extension.
The camp is for rising 6th, 7th and 8th graders and includes students from Davidson, Alamance, Rockingham, Caswell and Forsyth.
According to Barber, on the first day of camp, students are given a mock murder case and various techniques are used, including fingerprinting, blood typing, DNA extraction and footprints, to identify suspects. On the last day, they reveal their results and find out if they are correct.
On the second day of camp, the students toured the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, the Davidson County Courthouse, and the Davidson County Jail.
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At the courthouse, students had the opportunity to hear from judges and attorneys about their role in prosecuting criminals. They also learned about each stage of the process and the different laws for different crimes. The group also toured the county jail.
At the Sheriff’s Department, campers had the opportunity to learn how criminal evidence is collected, stored and investigated. They also learned about the different equipment used by the sheriff’s office, including K9 units, motorcycle patrol, water rescue and the SWAT team.
Although the 4-H Explorers Camp has been held in other counties before, this is the first time Davidson County has hosted the event.
“I really, really, really love 4-H,” said camper Bella Hedrick. “You can learn all kinds of things. I never knew you could tell so much just from a person’s fingerprint or how much difference there is between your fingerprints. If I can come back next year, I probably will… It’s really fun.”
Another camper, Aidan Wilson, said he really enjoyed learning about all the different departments in the sheriff’s office and the equipment they use.
“My favorite part was the motorcycles and the dogs. I also learned how to investigate crimes,” Aidan said.
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Corporal Chris Azlton of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit said it’s important for local law enforcement to engage with the community, especially students.
“Most of the time when people think about law enforcement, they don’t think about science and math,” Azelton said. “So we like them to come here not only to see what we do, but to understand that there are many different aspects of the sheriff’s office … They see that we use computer labs and all kinds of other things; that there is a math equation that you use to splatter blood. It just makes them start to understand that we solve crimes by using science and math.
Barber said the camp also teaches students that solving and prosecuting crimes is not what they see on TV and requires a lot of technical and legal work. He said the ultimate goal is to show these students that math and science are integral to many different careers.
“STEM is a major focus of 4-H,” Barber said. “Forensic science and all the science that goes into police investigation and prosecution of crimes definitely goes hand in hand with STEM education.”
General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at [email protected]com. Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.