MOUNT VERNON — Sponsored by a donation from the Knox County Career Center, hosted by Mount Vernon High School and coordinated by Bonnie Schutte, the 2010 Knox County Girls in Science Day featured CSI-like activities. Sixty girls from grades six, seven and eight participated in those activities and listened to an address by keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Ogle, Knox County coroner.
The girls from Centerburg, Danville, East Knox, Fredericktown, Mount Vernon Middle School and St. Vincent de Paul started the day with challenge activities in the lobby and gymnasium, then visited various workshop sessions and learned about fingerprinting, car crash analysis, chromatography and deciphering.
For the challenge stations, the girls had the opportunity to “dig” in a mini crime scene, fingerprint themselves, try to decipher clues to a day-long mystery — hieroglyphics, Braille and Morse code — analyze glass and sand, and see how observant they could be.
Schutte said the day-long mystery involved a story about a stolen school mascot.
“The girls were given some clues at the challenge stations and then one clue in each of the workshops they attended,” she explained. “From this they could have deduced that Ellen stole the mascot because she didn’t make the cheerleading squad.”
St. Vincent’s Rebecca Art, a seventh-grader attending girls in science day for the first time, won a CSI lab coat for solving the day-long mystery.
“I was very excited about winning the mystery,” Art said, “since there were a lot of other girls there that also guessed the right answer. The one major trick I used was just to listen closely to the clues that were given and write the clues down. Also, I was very excited about winning a lab coat just like a real CSI investigator.”
Kaitlyn Gibson and Kelsey Page from East Knox, and Melissa Mickley from Danville, solved mini mysteries and won CSI lanyards.
Mickley, a seventh-grader, solved a puzzle called “The Bumblebee.” She correctly deduced that one can identify a real flower in a room of fake flowers by watching a bumblebee which flew in an open window. Mickley thought science day was fun and said she learned many things she didn’t know before.
Gibson, grade six, was happy when she won the prize because, she said, “I had worked hard to try and uncover the answer to the mystery.” Gibson thought science day was “really cool because we got to learn things and have fun with science.”
A seventh-grader, Page was “shocked” but happy when she won the prize, because she thought her answer was wrong. She said Girls in Science Day was fun.
A five-girl team from Mount Vernon Middle School completed the scavenger hunt in the shortest amount of time by decoding clues hidden around the high school. Although she won the big mystery, Art said the scavenger hunt was her favorite part about science day.
Page liked the scavenger hunt, too.
“It was so much fun to get to figure out what the codes said,” she explained, “and get to run around the school searching for the next clue.”
Volunteer presenters conducted the various workshops.
The general science session — “What’s that secret message?” — was conducted by Schutte, a science teacher at Mount Vernon High School. Participants were introduced to various types of ciphers, discovered how to read them and write their own secret messages.
Lynn Pormen, KCCC, used physics to analyze car crash scenarios. The girls learned about four types of crashes, and what can be expected to happen to passengers wearing seat belts and passengers not wearing seat belts. They then put the theoretica l knowledge to the test by building model cars, crashing them and observing what happened.
Chemistry came into play when KCCC’s Mary Beth Dove had the young scientists analyze ink. The girls were given a portion of a “ransom” note, and using paper chromatography, compared the ink on the note to ink from pens collected from four “suspects.”
East Knox High School science teacher Amy Rine led the biology workshop dealing with fingerprints. Attendees learned the different characteristics of fingerprints and practiced fingerprint lifting techniques.
“I absolutely love teaching science and I enjoy the opportunity to share it with young ladies who also have an interest in science,” Rine said of why she volunteers to facilitate workshops. “I want young ladies to know that they can reach any goal or dream if they want to work for it, especially in the field of science.
“I feel that the girls in science day is important,” continued Rine, “because it offers these young ladies a positive environment in which they have the opportunity to explore several different areas of science without the distractions or competition that may be present in a mixed group of young people.”