ARLINGTON — The Arlington Library offered children and teens the opportunity to spend their spring break learning the sorts of skills they normally only see on primetime TV crime dramas, through a free weeklong “Forensic Detective Academy” April 1-5, courtesy of the Friends of the Arlington Library.
Jocelyn Redel and Lesla Ojeda, respectively the teens’ and children’s services librarians for the Arlington Library, drew the curriculum for the academy from online resources, and chose it because it offered lessons and activities that connect well to a relatively broad range of young people, with each day devoted to a different topic. Monday covered fingerprinting, Tuesday went over chromatography and handwriting analysis, Wednesday addressed casting tread patterns, and Thursday wrapped up the subjects with spitball ballistics and blood splatter analysis. Friday was set aside for a “Super-Secret Clue Pizza Party,” open to any young attendee who had come to at least one of those four days of the academy.
“Not only is it popular with the kids, but it allows them to explore various ideas, in a much different setting from a classroom,” Redel said. “They get a good grounding in rudimentary science and technology, but they also have to be creative and solve problems. They’ve been fascinated by the whole process, and by learning how and why everything works.”
Just as Redel reported that the students on April 1 were fascinated by the idea that even family members have different fingerprints, so too did the students on April 3 apply their best deductive reasoning skills to figuring out which shoes could have created certain sets of plaster casts of footprints that Ojeda had made before the day’s exercise.
“It’s a nice break from spring break,” said Lynn Urionaguena, who took her three children to the academy. “My kids love it because we all watch CSI and NCIS. They got to figure out which pens were used to make ransom notes and do handwriting analysis.”
“It’s just been fun and awesome,” said Lori Thompson, whose daughters Chloe and Olivia made their own plaster casts of footprints right outside of the Arlington Library. “They get to do new stuff that’s out of the ordinary, and I like that it gets them excited about going outdoors and getting a little dirty, rather than just staying inside. I wanted to get in on doing some of these activities too,” she laughed.