Indian Woods Students Work with School Resource Officer to Solve Mock Crime

Students in the library with School Resource Officer
Shawnee Mission School District

Taking part in a lesson inspired by a book they read, Indian Woods Middle School students recently became detectives to help solve a staged crime in the basement of their school.

School Resource Officer (SRO) Justin Seals presented a two-day lesson about crime scene evidence, how it is gathered, why it is important and how DNA, photos, video surveillance, and witnesses are important in an investigation.

The students had recently read the novel, “Monster,” a fictional story about a young boy who is on trial for his alleged participation in a crime that resulted in a murder. The majority of the novel takes place in a courtroom where evidence is presented by both sides. The crime scene lesson helped students better understand the concept of evidence.

On the second day of the lesson, students were placed in one of three groups: Evidence Gatherers, Interviewers, and Photographers. Officer Seals gave each group initial information about the crime scene and answered questions from each group.

The Evidence-Gatherers collected fake DNA (fingerprints and fake blood) from the fake weapon and other places including the door handle and overturned chairs. The Photographers took pictures of all areas of the crime scene. The Interviewers questioned two witnesses, played by teachers acting in the mock crime scene. 

Students then used the evidence they gathered to write an argument for who they believed to be the most likely suspect. Not only did they learn the importance of using evidence to support a claim, but they had a better understanding of the courtroom scene featured throughout the novel. 

Following the mock crime scene, Officer Seals debriefed with the students, asking them to share what they saw and learned and also talked to them about what they missed or overlooked.

By walking through a scene like detectives, students learned what information is important during a trial and why it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible to strengthen a case and Seals brought credibility to the lesson, eighth-grade teacher Lauren Smith said.

“It brought the book to life and helped them understand how important evidence is to prove or disprove a crime,” said Smith.