Recent California transplants and learning enthusiasts Dr. Ronald and Heidi Armstrong hope area students will embrace their hands-on approach to education through camps aimed at sharing the ins and outs of forensic sciences.
The day camps at Armstrong Institute in Fleming, which start this summer and are currently open for registration, feature up-close-and-personal, interactive stations where students in grades 6-12 can learn the processes behind crime scene investigation, archaeology, trace evidence, fingerprinting and wildlife forensics.“The whole point of this is for kids to be tactile,” Ronald Armstrong said. “I want them to get their hands dirty, and to make the lessons relative.”
During the weeklong camps, students will be assessed on their participation in and understanding of the material and activities, and participants who complete the camp will receive a certificate and badge naming them a junior scientist, Armstrong said.
“There will be learning objectives and assessments. It’s a challenge and response [environment],” he said.
Lessons will include looking at forensic evidence such as hair, fibers, carpet and fake blood that reacts to luminol. Armstrong said the curriculum he is creating will be customized for different age groups. Eventually, the Armstrongs hope to extend their lessons into the school year with weekend residential camps for students who are interested in pursuing forensic sciences lessons beyond the summer day camp setting.
The Armstrongs came to Georgia seeking a better place to raise their children and found the 17-acre property in Fleming ideal for establishing the institute. The wooded area features trails with forensic stations, an indoor classroom and nature center and sites for such activities as structural engineering analysis — using vehicles as study objects — and field forensics using the “dumpster diving” technique.
Armstrong’s background in education and forensic science — he has served as director of the forensic science department for American Intercontinental University and has lent his expertise to others in corporate and academic settings — along with his wife’s work with parks and recreation programs, made establishing and running the Armstrong Institute a perfect fit for their passions.
“This is a cumulation of years of planning, desire and dreaming,” he said. “While our curriculum is still under development, we will be offering daily forensics-related instruction.”
The curriculum is built around STEM education: science, technology, engineering and math. All these fields demand highly skilled workers and are the core of a growing job market, Armstrong said.
Beginning June 7 and running through July 30, the Armstrong Institute will offer eight one-week day camps this summer to different groups of students in sixth-12th grade; groups will have up to 20 students. Two weeks in June have already been set aside for Girl Scouts and military dependents.
To help defray the $100-per-student cost of the day camps, the Armstrongs are looking to partner with local businesses to help provide scholarships for participants.
Heidi Armstrong said the interactive nature of the institute helps show students that jobs can be rewarding in more ways than one. “We want to show them that work doesn’t have to be draining or drudging,” she said. “We want to spark their interest.”
The Armstrong Institute will have a groundbreaking ceremony from noon-2 p.m. Friday, March 26, with a grand opening June 5. To register for a summer day camp or to offer assistance with establishing scholarships, contact the Armstrongs at firstname.lastname@example.org.