It's not a scene students see every day in the Arlington Public School's library.

On Monday, yellow crime scene tape blocked off an area where a chair had been knocked over and a half-eaten apple was on the ground next to a "body" and "blood."

As he looked over the scene, Nolan Bottger had his theory about what happened.

"He got a bullet to the heart," the Arlington Elementary student said.

"He did?" Washington County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Brian Beckman responded. "Why do you think that?"

"Because there's a big blood spot," Bottger said.

But, as they assessed the scene further, Beckman encouraged Bottger and the other students to take a step back.

"The first thing we do when we come into any crime scene is we take our time and we look at it," said Beckman, who, along with Detective Joe Keas, are assisting with an FBI Forensics Camp this week at Arlington Elementary School.

The crime scene exercise was the culmination of three weeks of lessons being taught by APS teacher Jamie Smith. Bottger is one of 25 students participating in the class, which is part of a summer STEAM Camp offered at the school.

As she was preparing for this year's camp, Smith said Principal Jacque Morgan encouraged her to be creative. Smith said she's always been interested in the FBI and forensics, so she began to do some research and found a teacher's website that offered lessons.

"I thought it would be so fun to do," she said.

To prepare them for the final lesson, Smith, with the assistance of AHS graduate Evan Hammang, taught lessons and offered hands-on activities on topics, such as fingerprinting, DNA, hair and fiber analysis, handwriting analysis and Chromatography, which is a laboratory technique for the separation of a mixture. 

At the crime scene Monday, students — divided into five groups — took turns viewing, analyzing and documenting the scene.

As they arrived on scene, Beckman explained the importance of documentation.

"We don't go rushing in and try to figure out anything," he said. "We don't want to disturb any evidence. We want to make sure everything stays the way it is until we gather up evidence."

After getting an overall look, one student took out their notebook to sketch the scene, while others looked at the scene and labeled all of the evidence.

When they are investigating a crime scene, Beckman told the students he and Keas consider everything as evidence, saying that it's better to do that from the start because it's hard to go back later.

Beckman also noted that detectives also take photographs from all angles and view and label evidence in a systematic way.

"We start in one spot and work around the room," he said.

Each group of students spent about 10 minutes at the scene Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Smith said, they used their notes and a photograph and began working on their report, which they were set to present Thursday to Keas and Smith, to determine if they solved the crime.

Smith said she's pleased with how the camp has gone.

"The kids are so excited," she said. "They have really enjoyed it."

So have the adults.

"I think it's interesting that young kids are learning this kind of stuff," Beckman said.

Keas, who has been in law enforcement for 22 years, the last eight as a detective, said being able to interact with the students is nice.

"We aren't the ones they normally see," he said.

Beckman, who has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, hopes the camp has helped students gain an appreciation for science.

"Science can help us out in many different aspects of life, it's not just in a lab," he said. "We deal with science on a daily basis in our job, whether it's hair, blood or handwriting."

Having Beckman and Keas involved in the final lesson brought everything to life, Smith said.

"These kids probably see this stuff on TV, their parents might watch crime shows, but to actually know that there are people in our community that do that job it good for them to see," she said. "It might even spark some of them to pursue it as they go through college or try and pick a career."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.