On Oct. 8, someone entered the Market Street Elementary School science lab and helped themselves to some Halloween candy that was stored there. After the incident, all the students in the school began an investigation that led to exposing the culprit during a school assembly last week.
The whole scenario was part of the first module for the PTA-sponsored science lab at Market Street School. The lab is in its first year and in just a short time has proven to be a big plus in teaching science.
The lab is overseen by PTA volunteer Tanna Sebrell, who has a teaching degree and has taught high school science.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Market Street Elementary School third-graders Max Rassega and Carter Mraz go over data collected after a mysterious candy theft in the school’s new science lab.
"She has a plethora of scientific knowledge," said Market Street Principal Jim Stitt. "She re-enforces the core standards in science here."
In working with the science classes at Market, Sebrell designed a program for the PTA-sponsored lab. The first module dealt with the scientific method and how to gather facts and come to a conclusion.
While the candy caper was a staged event for the science class, the students were eager to begin research. They discovered a hair, fingerprints, a handwritten note left by the suspect, and a bite mark in one of the pieces of candy.
As the students began their research that led to an adult teacher, they started with the hair. It was a long strand which eliminated the school's male teachers. It was also dark colored, further eliminating light-haired female teachers.
The bite mark in the candy was an adult and using the scientific method, students were able to see how bite patterns were measured.
The fingerprints found in the lab were taken and the students learned a little about forensic science as they compared the prints.
The final element to the investigation was the handwriting, which was analyzed along with other data collected. The students actually had all the teachers at Market submit a form with a sample bite mark, fingerprint, hair strand and writing.
As the students progressed in their study of the scientific method, the first module drew to a close. Last week, a special assembly was held to reveal the results.
"A remarkable 95 percent of the kids got the right person," Sebrell said.
The guilty person was teacher Theresa D'Angelo, who explained she thought the Halloween candy was for her. She admitting to sampling it and left the thank you note that didn't include her name.
"It was the banana Laffy Taffy that did me in," she said. "I didn't like it after I took one bite, so I left the evidence."
To make the assembly a bit more interesting, Sgt. Chuck Hillman from the Boardman Police Department was on hand to make sure justice was served. After hearing D'Angelo's story, Hillman asked the kids if she was guilty or deserved to be let off the hook. The students voted to let her go free because it was an honest mistake.
Sebrell said while the whole candy caper was meant to be fun, it also engaged all the students in all grades. They learned a lot about science without even realizing they were doing so. That pleased Sebrell and the teaching staff at Market. Everyone was impressed at how the students got involved through Sebrell's program.
"Now that the scientific method module is done, the next quarter we will focus on getting messy with chemistry," Sebrell said.
The science lab can handle nearly any scientific category. It has microscopes and projectors and other equipment that make teaching science easier. The lab is visited by 400 students each week and is run by PTA volunteers. The programs in the lab are combined with the state requirements in science, thus serving as a supplement to the normal science lessons.
News of the lab and the recent program had spread and during last week's assembly, Audra Carlson from Oh Wow Children's Center in Youngstown dropped in.
"I came to observe," Carlson said. "Tanna [Sebrell] will be featured in our Oh Wow STEM Star, our newsletter for educators."
Carlson said the newsletter is something new from Oh Wow, and the first issue will have Sebrell's story in it. While she knows about Sebrell, she wanted to attend the assembly to see
her in action and observe how excited the students were over science, thanks to the Market Street lab and PTA.