On the scenePublished 10:46pm Wednesday, June 27, 2012
In a scenario ripped straight from the “CSI” television shows, Cass County middle school students put their crime investigation skills to the test Wednesday, working to solve a pretend murder mystery.
Mathews Conference Center, on the campus of Dowagiac’s Southwestern Michigan College, served as the location for four crime scenes for SMC’s Educational Talent Search (ETS) Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Junior Academy. On Monday, 42 students from Cass County middle schools began learning skills and procedures of real-life crime scene investigators. In classes that ranged from trace analysis of hair and fibers to studying the scenario victim’s stomach contents, sixth- seventh- and eighth-graders learned what it takes to solve crimes with scientific evidence.
Wednesday’s activity involved groups of students investigating, studying and documenting crime scenes, all connected to the “murder” of a character named Joe Kerr.
“This is the largest group we’ve had so far,” Amy Anderson, ETS director, said Wednesday. “We originally had room for 30, but we allowed more because the response was really good.”
Some tasks the students had to complete included fingerprint analysis, inspection of the body, which was a life-size dummy from the Dowagiac Fire Department, and photographing the crime scene.
“I got into this academy because there was nothing to do all summer and it sounded fun,” Nijah Russell, an incoming freshman at Dowagiac Union High School, said. “Also, my uncle is a police officer in Kalamazoo, and it’s cool to understand what he does.”
Anderson said that through the students are having fun, she’s enjoyed watching them learn outside of the traditional classroom setting.
“They don’t mind having a little homework even though it’s summer,” Anderson said. “It’s really been a lot of fun for all of us.”
For Jessica Rovison, an incoming seventh-grader at Dowagiac Middle School, the “murder” investigation didn’t faze her or her classmates.
“This has been really fun,” Rovison said. “Studying the stomach contents was really gross, but actually working a crime scene is cool.”
Rovison said she hopes to become a CSI when she’s older, so the academy has been a great experience.
“I’m solving a murder,” Rovison said. “I’m getting to do something I’ve never done before.”
Students will continue classes and demonstrations Friday, including a trial at the Cass County Law and Courts building in Cassopolis.