Students connect curriculum to crime scene

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis High School Freshman Academy Adriana Romero, left, hands new evidence to Kimberly Acosta to be bagged Tuesday at the school’s reconstruction of a 1920 homicide.

Liliana Castillo

Clovis High School Freshman Academy students relived history last week as they reconstructed a homicide from the 1920s.

In the cross-curricular project, students examined different parts of the homicide and trial in different classes over a 5-day span, beginning Nov. 18. English classes evaluated witness statements, biology studied the science behind evidence, history covered the trial from the 1920s and math classes analyzed blood spatter.

Biology teacher Nicole Hahn said teachers came up with the idea in a teaching team session. The teachers wanted a project that made the lessons the students learn relevant. Hahn said the project will help students see how all the subjects are connected.

The New Mexico State Police came in to help the classes evaluate a crime scene and learn how to correctly collect evidence.

Sgt. Gary Smith and Agent David O’Leary spent hours with the students combing over the crime scene set up in the library.

“This is interesting,” O’Leary said. “It gives them a perspective on what we do for a living.”

O’Leary said he and Smith answered several questions about procedures the students had seen on television crime scene investigation shows.

Smith said he and O’Leary also showed students how investigators in the 1920s didn’t have the same technology they do now.

“We got to show them what we do with technology today that keeps us from making a mistake like they did,” Smith said.

In the homicide the classes are recreating, two immigrants were convicted of the crime, even though no evidence proved their fault.

Both state policeman said that helping students is a nice change of pace from their usual work.

Principal Diana Russell said she’s glad the teachers at the Freshman Academy are creative and innovative.

“They’ve managed to find real world situations that students are interested in and tie back to their curriculum,” Russell said.

Russell student engagement was evident throughout the project.

Russell said the school is fortunate to have a community that is willing to talk to the students and provide them with hands-on firsthand experience.