Kent Elementary Students Become Nature Crime Investigators for a Day

There was a crime to solve out in nature and Kent Elementary third-grade students were quick to take on the case. 

The young investigators recently participated in a Wildlife CSI training course, or lesson, under the direction of Julia King, a naturalist from the Putnam-Northern Westchester Center for Environmental Education. The lesson gave students an overview of the diverse types of evidence that animals leave behind out in the wild. The students learned how to decipher clues left behind by elusive animals, such as tracks, fur, feathers, scat, food remains, bones and more.  

Student study a crime scene bin during Wildlife CSI class

“To be a good detective, we are looking for evidence,” King told the students. “We are looking for clues that tell us what happened. We are looking for things that can prove our theories, our ideas or our stories.” 

After the lesson, it was time for hands-on investigating at four crime scenes throughout the classroom. At the different stations, students used their critical-thinking skills and helpful resources to collect evidence and make notes on their observations. Among the evidence left behind was a snakeskin, feathers, a fallen bird’s nest, animal tracks and scat. 

Once they collected all the evidence at the stations, the students worked together to draw conclusions about who was there and how the crime happened.  

“A snake could have eaten a bird's eggs,” said Juniper B., summarizing one of the crime scenes. 

“At scene one, maybe the bird got eaten and that was the bird’s nest and when it fell the feathers came off,” surmised Lilly C. “Sometimes when birds fall, like when they are babies, their feathers are loose and they fall off. I think it got attacked, maybe by a bear or a wolf.” 

Nicholas C. had a different guess of who the alleged attacker was: “A snake, because I’m pretty sure snakes can climb trees and snakes eat birds.” 

“I think a bird and snake were there and the bird got captured by the snake and escaped,” said Nicholas M. “In the second scene I think a bunch of animals got into a fight.” 

“In the first scene, I don’t think the snakeskin was even part of it. Maybe the snake just came by and shed its skin,” said Sergio P. 

Students displayed so much creativity in their investigative groups. 

By the end of the investigation, our students had a better understanding of predator and prey relationships and the food chain. They even got to meet and pet an animal ambassador, Kudja, the corn snake!