by Tom Joyce, Mount Airy News
, seventh, and eighth grade 4-H summer fun participants from Ashe, Alleghany, Davie, Davidson, Yadkin, Rowan, Guilford, Surry and Wilkes County got to figure out "who-done it" June 17-19th. Specifically, the 4-H participants looked into who killed the mythical Professor Halftrack and what the suspect's motive might have been. The murder mystery was part of a special biotechnology camp, "4-H Investigates" sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension and partially funded by a grant from the NC 4-H Development Fund. The camp was held at East Wilkes Middle School in Ronda, NC.
The youth investigators learned first-hand from law enforcement officers how evidence is collected at a crime scene and how technology can be used to solve crimes. The investigators then worked in teams to gather evidence, question suspects, and solve the mystery. Along the way, investigators were given the opportunity to conduct experiments, which helped them solve the crime - and better understand biotechnology.
On day two at the camp, the 4-H Investigators were able to see behind the scenes at the Surry County Jail & Courthouse, Hodges Funeral Home and the NC Large Animal Diagnostic Lab in Elkin, NC. While at the jail the youth were able to visit with inmates at their cell blocks; asking questions about "life in jail". The inmates encouraged the participants to stay in school and think about their actions to prevent them from ending up in jail, too. At Hodges Funeral Home, the funeral director explained the procedure of preparing a body for burial. At the NC Diagnostic Lab, Dr. Rector shared with the investigators the process of necropsy. Necropsy is used to determine what caused an animal to die prematurely. The investigators were able to watch Dr. Rector perform a necropsy on a livestock animal to determine chronic pneumonia was the cause of its death.
Additionally, youth participated in other hands-on workshops conducted by Cooperative Extension staff, volunteers, and 4-H'ers. These workshops helped the investigators better understand how biotechnology is used in professions other than law enforcement, such as medicine and agriculture to cure disease and develop better yielding crops and prevent diseases spreading in animals. Jennie Rucker, Extension volunteer, and Rob Neely, Rowan County Extension, taught the Investigators about photography. They used the techniques learned in this workshop to photograph the crime scene where Professor Halftrack was found. Dawn Stanley, Surry Community College, set up a mock crime scene to help the investigators practice drawing a crime scene to scale and reminding them to leave nothing out of their drawings. Jason McGuire, Wilkes County Sheriff's Department, allowed the Investigators to take fingerprints and understand the fingerprinting process when criminals are booked. Jennifer Miller, Ashe County Extension, demonstrated teeth impressions and allowed the investigators to determine, "Who bit the cheese?" The investigators also extracted their own DNA with the help of Melissa Staebner, Yadkin County Extension, and Beth Stanley, Surry County Extension. Sara Drake, Rowan County Extension, facilitated Fruit DNA analysis, which allowed the investigators to understand about genetic engineering. The Investigators also learned that blood spatters, it does not splatter, through the instruction of Ryan Archer, Guilford County 4-H'er. He helped the investigators determine which house hold product could be used to lift fingerprints.
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