The Valley's newest crime scene investigation team is undergoing intense training this week in Tempe.
Learning police and forensic techniques is a grueling exercise, especially when your students are only in middle school.
These new CSI proving grounds are on the campus of Gethsemane Lutheran School.
"They love it. It's one of the favorite electives they get to take," says teacher Jacob Rynes.
"They really just get into it and they love getting it all together."
"I wanna do it. I wanna get out of my comfort zone and try new things. So I signed up for it," says seventh-grader Gretchen Hoefer.
Wednesday's exercise involves a mock crime - a school bus has been burglarized and the evidence left behind has been roped off with crime scene tape.
Young detectives pour over the forensics. They are looking at a shoe print, broken glass and a hammer left at the crime scene.
"The first thing we have to do is get to the crime scene and map out what it looks like," says eighth grader Skyler Correia.
The pint-sized sleuths take photographs of the scene and attempt to collect fingerprints.
"Then we have to go in and get all the evidence, record it and give it to the lab to test it," says Skyler. "Then we have to go investigate witnesses and see what their side of the story is."
"I kind of like yelling at the teachers sometimes," says Gretchen.
One by one, the student investigators grill a group of suspects, their teachers, with interrogating questions..
"Why are you fiddling with your thumbs?" asks Gretchen to one of her teachers.
"Because I'm nervous," he responds.
"Why are you nervous?" Gretchen quickly retorts.
"Because you guys are getting in my space," replies the teacher.
The instructor believes he may have a few future investigators among his pupils.
"I think we do," Rynes quips with a smile. "We've got quite a crack team."
"I want to interview people. I want to be a detective," says Gretchen.
This class was born out of an idea Rynes had several years ago. He enlisted the help of a Chandler police officer, the parent of one of his students.
"There's all these shows with forensics and detective work, and to make that real and bring it to them, it's so much more applicable," says Rynes. "When you're a kid, you ask, 'When am I gonna use this?' Well, you're using it right now."
"It does look fun being a trace evidence investigator," says Skyler. "I've learned there's a lot of steps you have to do. There's a lot of safety procedures. Details, details, details."
Solving crimes may look simple on television dramas. However, the students here are learning it is no easy task in the real world.
"I watch a lot of detective movies and CSI TV shows," says Gretchen.
"The TV (programs) are a lot more action-oriented. And a bit more violent," says Skyler.
The students' three-day long final exam ends Friday after they submit their evidence and identify the perpetrator of the fictitious crime.
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