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Published: Wednesday, 7/15/2009

Camp Scrubs lets kids investigate forensics careers

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Trey Schell, 14, of Fremont examines a skull during Camp Scrubs, where youngsters learn how to investi-gate crime scenes and work in laboratories to gather the evidence needed to solve crimes. Trey Schell, 14, of Fremont examines a skull during Camp Scrubs, where youngsters learn how to investi-gate crime scenes and work in laboratories to gather the evidence needed to solve crimes.
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Forget about canoe trips, horseback riding, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire.

At this summer camp, participants poke at a liver on a rooftop, checking for bugs to determine a victim's time of death. They examine blood splatters, and they make ears and eyelids out of Play-Doh as they reconstruct the face of a stabbing victim.

Camp Scrubs II at Mercy College of Northwest Ohio continues through the week with crime-scene investigations and hands-on lessons in the labs.

For some people, this would be called Camp Creep Out, but these young scientists don't shrink back from sessions on blood and bones.

"I'm interested in forensics as a career. I want to be a coroner, truthfully," said Mackenzie Kangars of Point Place as she placed pretend skin over a skull during a Camp Scrubs facial reconstruction session in Toledo yesterday. "I have a strong stomach. I do not mind looking at dead bodies."

So. Has the 14-year-old girl seen a lot of them? "Just the ones I've seen on TV. All the blood and gore and stuff, none of that disgusts me," she said, studying placement of pieces of flattened Play-Doh on the skull (not a real one; a teaching-tool version).

She and her teammates named their reconstructed "man" Jose, but his real name was Julius, as in Julius Caesar, who was stabbed to death in 44 B.C.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky Barbara Stoos, assistant dean of sciences at Mercy College of Northwest Ohio, instructs students, from left, Allison Ahrens, 13, of Marblehead, Shailaa Kummar, 14, of Sylvania, and Maty Lehman, 13, of Rossford, on the fine points of determining the age and gender of a human skull. The Blade/Dave Zapotosky Barbara Stoos, assistant dean of sciences at Mercy College of Northwest Ohio, instructs students, from left, Allison Ahrens, 13, of Marblehead, Shailaa Kummar, 14, of Sylvania, and Maty Lehman, 13, of Rossford, on the fine points of determining the age and gender of a human skull.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mackenzie and her teammates guessed the age of the deceased as "old." Really old. "In his 50s, probably," Miss Kangars said.

Campers at times acted their ages, such as when they totally agreed that they love the smell of Play-Doh, that distinctive aroma connecting childhood and creativity.

But mostly, the Camp Scrubs participants acted mature and professional, and later in the week they will look career-bound in their very own sets of blue scrubs.

Teri Thomas of Toledo, who assisted the campers, directed the team as it used a rolling pin and a yellow plastic sculpting tool to get just the right look on the lobes.

Earlier in the day, the 22 campers learned how to determine the age and gender of a skeleton by examining the bones. The session was conducted by Barbara Stoos, associate dean of sciences at Mercy College, who told the campers that past injuries or diseases can leave their marks, and those marks might help identify individuals.

On Monday, when the week-long camp opened, students worked with a police sergeant to secure a mock crime scene. They learned tips on how to properly gather evidence. Those tips could prove valuable Friday when the campers gather evidence and solve a crime.

That red substance - taco sauce or blood? Students will take samples back to the lab, and, using what they learned, such as during a session on blood typing and blood splatters, they can figure out the whodunit.

Nancy Kovacs of Curtice, a medical technologist at St. Charles Mercy Hospital, went through her kitchen cupboards and refrigerator to find items - cornstarch, baking soda, salt, flour, tea, ketchup - for campers to test during the blood-related session and a session on powder substances. As Mrs. Kovacs conducted the classes, some campers wrote test results in their binders with bone-colored, spine-shaped pens.

Campers were particularly pleased when real blood produced real fizzing bubbles when it came into contact with hydrogen peroxide.

"Oh, my. Look at it bubble," said 12-year-old Natalie Thomsen of Toledo as she studied the reaction on a white coffee filter streaked with samples.

Natalie attended the first Camp Scrubs last year, and said "it was tons of fun, so I came back this year."

Mercy College split the camp into two sessions this year, a June camp for middle school students and Camp Scrubs II for older students. The cost was $300 per camper. Students were required to have at least a B average in math and science to be eligible to attend.

The camp's goal is stimulating the students' interest in the health-care industry and raising awareness of the careers in the growth field, which has jobs beyond doctor and nurse, said Cheryl Nutter, director of continuing education for Mercy College.

Other sessions during Camp Scrubs II will focus on computer forensics to gather evidence and hand-writing analysis to figure out who wrote a mock ransom letter. Students will conduct chemical analysis on hair composition and fibers, such as those found on a suspect's jacket at a crime scene.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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