Project Exploration brings real-world, authentic STEM experiences

Project Exploration (PE) works to find ways to engage our participants in real-world and authentic experiences. In our middle school programs, we provide trips to various STEM rich institutions in Chicago to build their understanding of STEM in everyday careers. With our high school programs that focus on a STEM specific discipline, identifying authentic experiences becomes more creative. However, with effective partnerships we find organizations willing and ready to help us fulfill this goal!

Forensic Investigators back at Phoenix Military Academy

This past November, our Forensic Investigators program, at Phoenix Military Academy (PMA) and in partnership with After School Matters, were invited to visit the Department of Corrections Courthouse facility at 26th and California in the southwest side of Chicago. Deyanna, a junior and new member to the Forensics program this fall shared about her experience in the program and why this trip was one of the most memorable experiences she has had!

Meet Deyanna, an aspiring Forensic Scientist

Deyanna, a new Forensic Investigator program participant joined because she was interested in Forensic Science. She already has plans to attend Purdue University, major in Forensic Science, and pursue a career with the Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigators division. As a Chicago resident who has experienced violence and crime, she wants to help bring closure to families that lose relatives to violence by investigating murder crimes. So when she saw that PMA was offering a Forensics program, she got really excited. She shared, “Most people would think that Forensic Investigators is boring but honestly, when I saw that this school had it, I jumped right on it. I was trying so hard to get into the program because I really wanted to be here!”

Forensic Investigators behind the scenes at a 26th and California courtroom

In November, the participants of our Forensics program were invited to the courthouse at 26th and California. Unlike the Daley Center courthouse that this program his visited before, this facility handles felony crimes, including homicides and violent crimes. The Forensic Investigators were invited into the courtroom of the Honorable Arthur F. Hill Jr, Associate Judge, to observe a case from the jury box. Deyanna was fascinated by all the people going about their daily work, “I loved seeing all the people at work, even though some might think that job is boring just sitting there and typing up stuff, or defending people in their cases, I found it really interesting!” To the students’ surprise, the judge actually halted the court several times to ask them questions and share information on the process so they knew was going on, and the reason behind the process. They observed the defense and prosecution share arguments regarding the case. When court was adjourned, they had a chance to speak with the judge directly and ask questions about this process and perspective on the cases he presides over. Deyanna shared with us, “We had a chance to talk to the judge and hear his view on each person coming in and out of his courtroom. He shared how he gives the verdict and sentence to the people brought to his court. He said that he doesn’t judge them by their tattoos or their appearance, or what they are accused of, he sees every person that comes in as a human being and you just take the evidence that’s there and apply it to the case. I really loved that.” It’s so great that our students had a chance to speak with some an incredible role model and positive influence in the judicial system!

What’s next for Forensic Investigators?

And the fun doesn’t stop at the courthouse! Our STEM Facilitator, Jasmine Tatum, will be working with our Program Manager, Kiara Byrd, to plan even more field trips this coming Spring, including but not limited to visiting a funeral home to learn more about mortuary sciences. The students have heard about this upcoming field trip and Deyanna is so excited! She shared with us, “I’m looking forward to going to the morgue/funeral home, because I had a bad experience with funeral homes, but I am looking forward to turning that around because I know I’ll have to deal with that in the field that I want to go into, so I want to get that out of the way.”

PE is so proud to provide these authentic experiences for our students and cannot wait to share more details with you next semester!

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