When 16 middle-school students reported to summer camp at First Presbyterian Christian Academy on Wednesday, they were greeted with an unusual sight: Yellow crime-scene tape blocked the entry to two classrooms, where desks and chairs were toppled over, torn papers were strewn about and blood spatter was everywhere from white boards to the floors.
After they watched Fort Stewart Criminal Investigation Command Agent Jesse Sheldon process the scene, the Forensics 1 campers learned that they, too, would be able to help investigate the “real-life” crime.
“We’re discriminating between what happens in the real world in crime-scene investigating and what happens on TV,” camp instructor Charles Canup said. “It’s not the same thing; you don’t have a group of five detectives who do every single thing in an investigation.”
Canup, with the help of school administrators and previous forensics students, staged the scene as a hands-on learning experience for the students enrolled in the weeklong Forensic Science 1 camp.
One in a series of FPCA summer programs open to all students, Canup’s $75 workshop teaches fingerprint analysis, blood samples and laboratory analysis techniques.
Canup used the scenario to spark discussions on motive, blood testing and crime-scene procedures. After an hour-long discussion, the campers were allowed to move through the scenes, first to observe and later to collect and test the authenticity of blood-spatter samples.
The semblance of reality is essential to ensuring the students remain focused and retain the information, Canup said. Today, he anticipates the class will solve the crime — and realize it was staged — before being debriefed about the week’s lesson.
Amber Cromeenes, a former forensics camper and rising freshman at FPCA who helped create the scene this year, recalled the experience as an exciting one.
“My favorite thing was when the police come and the crime scene is there, and you’re like, ‘Whoa! What happened?’” she said. “It felt like you were actually doing something, not just learning from a book.”
This year’s campers were not quite sure what to think of the event as of Wednesday, but they welcomed the chance to take part in something real.
FPCA fifth-grader John Wyatt Summerall said that seeing a law-enforcement offer at the scene made him believe it was indeed a real crime.
Lewis Frasier Middle School sixth-grader Justin Carryl added that he believed there was more than one perpetrator who likely was mad about the school’s animal-dissection labs.
“I sometimes like to pretend my own crime scenes and try to solve them,” Carryl said. “It’s cool to be part of a real one.”
Parents interested in the Forensics Science 2 camp from July 26-29 or any other FPCA summer programs should call the school at 876-0441.