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Last updated:

November 18, 1999

Editor's Note: A photo of John Hill and Marilyn Duerst is available to accompany this story. Please contact the Office of Public Affairs if you would like one sent via e-mail attachment.

Children's Detective Book Features Chemistry

University of Wisconsin-River Falls chemistry faculty members Marilyn Duerst and emeritus-professor John Hill have written a unique children's mystery book that bridges the gap between science and literature.

The book, "The Crimecracker Kids and the Bake-Shop Break-in," leads 8- to 12-year-old readers through home science experiments to help the story's main characters, the Crimecracker Kids (a town club of four kid sleuths), solve the mystery. The reader can join the Crimecracker Kids as they dream up a plan to nail the thief at their small town's summer festival. Not until the final chapters, though, will the field of suspects be narrowed and will the reader be sure of the identity of the kitchen powders stolen from the Bake Shop. Because the children get actively involved in the mystery, they want to read, according to Duerst and Hill.

The book is best suited for elementary to middle school classrooms and could be read in about two weeks. Duerst, who lives in New Richmond, has been a member of the chemistry faculty at the University since 1981. As a mother of six daughters, she has been intimately involved in education at all levels for more than 25 years.

From 1990-1998, Duerst was the project director for two major teacher enhancement grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $700,000. During this time, she worked closely with 220 K-6 teachers in about 30 regional school districts in Wisconsin and Minnesota, to help implement a hands-on science circulum for elementary school students.

Duerst has taught science workshops for K-8 teachers from Wisconsin to West Virginia. In addition, she has for many years worked with the Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H and several summer science enrichment programs, such as College of Kids and College Camp.

At the college level, Duerst developed and taught a chemistry course for elementary education majors. The course's lab included experiments that primarily used kitchen chemicals.

From 1969-1997, Hill taught chemistry at UW-RF to students from various disciplines. His textbook, "Chemistry for Changing Times," has led the chemistry field for more than 25 years. The eighth edition, with Doris K. Kolb, was published by Prentice-Hall in 1998.

He has co-written several other texts, including "General Chemistry" (with Ralph Petrucci Prentice-Hall, second edition, 1999), and "Chemistry and Life: An Introduction to General, Organic and Biological Chemistry" (with Stuart J. Baum and Rhonda Scott-Ennis, sixth edition, Prentice-Hall, 2000).

Hill lives in River Falls and is a member of the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators. In addition, Hill is a grandfather to three children with whom he shares his excitement of learning chemistry.

The books can be purchased at the University bookstore or ordered directly from Hill at 532 North 7th St., River Falls, Wis. 54022.

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