At first it looked to the investigators like another gunshot murder. After all, there was a body on the floor with a handgun lying next to it.
That was the early conclusion some seventh graders at Clarkdale-Jerome School reached Monday morning during their initial look at a mock crime scene. But further investigation revealed that the murder weapon was a baseball bat.
Blood spatter was the give away.
As part of a seventh-grade course in science and technology, school resource officer Robert Church created two identical crime scenes. Then two classes of seventh-graders each took one of the scenes. The students chose their own team leaders and handed out crime scene assignments. The jobs included photographer, evidence collector and evidence custodian.
"The whole activity is self directed," Church said. "It's just as if (the police) were doing a crime scene. "They're doing all the steps."
Church said the students must process the scene and draw conclusions then write reports. He said the students must decide "who should be charged and what crimes they should be charged with."
The students also have access to witnesses, but first they must ask the right questions. If a students asks to talk to the victim's girlfriend, an actor with a prepared script will give up some important details necessary to solving the crime.
In this mock scene, the students must look past the obvious evidence of the gun. The victim -- who owed money for a sports bet -- actually tried to use the gun in self-defense. But he was killed by a blow to the head with a baseball bat.
The students who analyzed the scene thoroughly and noticed the blood spatter and absence of gunshot wounds, soon realized the evidence told another story.
"Just because you see something, it doesn't mean that's the way things are," Church said.
He said the students would be graded on the actual process of working the crime scene and writing reports and also on how well they worked together as a team.
The crime scene exercise and classroom work leading up to it stick with what the kids are learning in the science course. "It's geared toward meeting standards," Church said.
Some of the students were finding the exercise interesting and challenging.
"This is really fun because I have a CSI game at home," said Jessica Hall. She said it was fun for her to act out what she had learned as though she were an investigator.
Shiloh Morecraft also thought it was interesting. She said she likes the science part of it all. "I like using my brain to figure out what happened," she said.
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