In this Monday Sept. 19, 2011 photo, students at Tibbetts Middle School read a note in the school’s library during a class lesson that included solving a fake crime. (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Jenny Kane)
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Ms. Gockel did it in the library with the camera.
Or did she?
Students recently began a weeklong investigation at Tibbetts Middle School when their teacher, Erin Gockel, arranged a school-wide game of who-dunnit for her seventh- and eighth-grade current events class.
Students by the end of the week hoped to figure out who stole the school’s most expensive digital camera, and they intend to solve the case like real sleuths.
“They can’t just say, ‘Did you do it?'” Gockel said.
Students in recent weeks prepared for the investigation by learning about a variety of forensic science careers, procedures and terminology.
Terry Eagle, lead investigator for the Farmington Police Department, taught the students how to read different types of prints, how to take imprints of shoes and how to inspect a crime scene.
“Look, but do you see? Listen, but do you hear?” Eagle told the students, advice that motivated the students to look at and listen to what is beyond the surface.
Using their recently gained knowledge, the students were expected to confront a setup crime scene and thereafter prove they are savvy enough to pin the right suspect.
Gockel remained tight-lipped as her students chattered in the library over a strand of hair, a set of fingerprints and a blood-spotted tissue, which was actually marked with red ink.
“They don’t even realize they’re doing so much work,” Gockel said.
The students were not only collecting evidence, but they also were conducting interviews, writing suspect lists and recording detective reports.
“Every staff member in the school has a story line,” Gockel said, noting that everyone from the secretary to the librarian could provide a tip that could make or break any students’ case.
Gockel’s forensic science lesson is in its second year and is meant to drive students into careers that they may not otherwise consider.
“They choose what they study — that way they are more invested in it,” said Gockel, who recently won a $2,000 grant from ING, a nationwide financial investment group, for the energy career portion of her class.
Already some of her students see themselves in forensic science careers, with some of them interested in bones, others interested in blood, and others simply interested.
For the time being though, they had their minds on the case of the missing camera.
“The person who did it — a lot of the kids already said his or her name,” Gockel said.