Havasu For Youth brings CSI to Thunderbolt

A Thunderbolt employee appears to be dead, her body on the floor with the school cash box open and empty at her side. Rubber gloved Thunderbolt students search the room looking for clues. Not your normal after school scene. What is going on? Itís Science Club, part of the Havasu For Youth after school LEARN program.

Mr. Parr
Thunderbolt Middle School science teacher Mike Parr talks to Science Club CSI participants.

Havasu For Youth is a local organization with the mission, "To educate and empower the youth of Lake Havasu City by providing the skills necessary to assume positive and productive roles in society." One of its programs is the LEARN (Leadership, Education, Advancement, Responsibility, Now) After School Program. LEARN Program director Cheryl Wallsmith says studies show teenagers are most likely to get into trouble between 3 and 6 p.m., the hours after school and before parents get home. Currently, the local Parks and Recreation Department offers after school programs for elementary school students, but there is nothing offered daily for teenagers. The LEARN Program was created to fill that gap. LEARN started at Thunderbolt Middle School last school year, and is now expanding to Daytona Middle School. There is no charge to students enrolled in the program, and funding comes from grants, the United Way, Lake Havasu City, Unisource, and private donations. (More about LEARN later in this article.) Lake Havasu Unified School District provides school facilities to house the program.

Ms. Price
Thunderbolt teacher Laura Price helps Science Club investigators evaluate their evidence.

One of the LEARN after school activities offered at Thunderbolt is Science Club. Science Club meets for 80 minutes, one day a week and is currently involved in a four week CSI (crime scene investigation) exercise. During week 1, students went to a short CSI school and were then taken to a simulated crime scene. A Thunderbolt staff member had been murdered and money stolen from a locked cash box. Students gathered evidence. During week 2, students processed their evidence, reviewed an autopsy report, and interviewed witnesses. Week 3 will be spent on further examination of evidence, getting search warrants, and interviews of suspects. During week 4, students will decide who committed the crime, present their evidence to the district attorney, and will make an arrest. The students work in small groups, and each group reaches its own conclusions.

Science Club is supervised by Thunderbolt Science teacher Mike Parr and Thunderbolt reading teacher Laura Price. They put together the CSI activity to provide a stimulating, entertaining, and educational experience for students. Mr. Parr says it would be difficult to do the same activity in his normal classroom due to the time it takes and the expense. In this case, Havasu for Youth pays for all the necessary supplies. When asked if he sees any carryover benefit from Science Club to his classroom, Mr. Parr says students in Science Club and his regular science classes show a definite carryover in enthusiasm for science and in application of skills learned at Science Club.

Crime scene photographs.
Crime scene photographs taken by Science Club investigators.

During our visit to Science Club during week 2 of the CSI activity, students were dusting for and lifting fingerprints from the smashed cash box and comparing them with fingerprints taken from suspects. They beat on another cash box with various tools thus creating tool marks they could compare to those on the original cash box. Students were coming and going from the lab as they tracked down witnesses to be interviewed. They also reviewed crime scene photographs taken the week before. Teachers Mike and Laura gave direction and advice as necessary. School resource officer (Lake Havasu City police officer) Rob McBride stopped in and was looking over some of the evidence. (Maybe he was worried someone was going to "steal his collar" as they say on the cop shows.) Students were engaged and working as teams. No one looked bored.

Future Science Club activities include a field trip to the Bill Williams River Wildlife Refuge, dissection of real sharks, a mousetrap powered vehicle competition, and tennis ball wars.

LEARN after school activities are popular and have extensive community support. Many locals, like Rudy Aravello of the Aravello Martial Arts Academy, Grace Ann Etcheberria-Jacobs of Grace Arts Live, and Dennis and Karen Malin of Elegant Cuisine, offer their services and/or support free of charge. 

There are waiting lists for the Thunderbolt classes. Children can still get into the classes offered at Daytona. Classes offered are 

Hip Hop
Weight Training/Fitness
Science Club
Art Club
Cooking Club
Self Defense

Martial Arts

For more information, call Havasu for Youth at 453-2426. They are looking for someone to handle an after school robotics class at Daytona. Anyone interested?

More photos . (Click picture for a larger view.)

School resource officer
School Resource Officer
Lifting fingerprints
Lifting Prints
Examining photograph
Examining Crime Scene Photo
Crime scene.
Crime Scene