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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Solving the mystery: a story of collaboration and imagination

A group of intrepid middle school investigators, with the help of young scientists from area universities, solved the last of three crimes during their six-week stint as "Library Investigators."

The 12 youth representing six Waukegan schools worked alongside scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, and University of Illinois.

During their hands-on process of scientific investigation, the students formed their hypothesis, performed experiments, and ultimately identified the culprits. U of I Extension's Lake County 4-H metro program, the Waukegan Public Library, and the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology came together under the leadership of Dr. Lee Bishop of the University of Wisconsin and Sandra Prez, Extension youth educator, to provide exciting crime-scene forensic science activities including lifting fingerprints and identifying DNA. Award-winning Waukegan Public Library hosted the scientists and investigators.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.