It looked like a scene from a popular crime scene investigation show.
A white outline of a body was traced next to a red-stained blunt object. Nearby, a desk was disheveled, exposing burned files and a broken computer screen.
But the mystery will not be solved by television's lead investigator "Gil" Grissom. Aspiring professionals from McPherson Middle and High School's Bullpup Scholars class will be the ones to get to the bottom of it.
"The purpose of the class is to let them become the experts," teacher Sheri Nakai said. "So by the end of the semester, they were actually CSI professionals."
Bullpup Scholars is a new class this year that allows high-achieving students to think out of the classroom box and take learning into their own hands. Students may choose from three general learning umbrellas, one of them being crime scene investigation. Out of the 85 enrolled, more than 30 students have made this choice, and have the task of solving several crimes throughout the year.
A bomb scene, a murder and a car wreck are scenarios on their school's campus that must be solved by investigative departments. The departments include fingerprinting, interrogation, photography, DNA, facial reconstruction and forgery, to name a few.
But rather than learning from a set curriculum, students in CSI were able to choose any area of investigation they could think of, and teachers Paul Carver and Sheri Nakai created scenarios from scratch based on student interest. Students were then responsible to do their own research and contact experts to determine what various pieces of evidence can tell them about the crime.
"It definitely puts a different spin on school for me," sophomore Cody Manning said.
He and classmate Ian Ediger are researching ballistics this semester and determining the many ways a simple bullet hole can speak for itself. The duo said they have looked forward to doing homework outside of classroom time for Bullpup Scholars, as opposed to other classes.
"It's a nice change," Manning said. "After this, I'm awake and more focused (than when doing other homework). It's raised independence and given us room to think outside the box."
Other students are involved with interrogation. A high school theater class even posed as witnesses, given basic facts but making up the rest.
Freshmen Amanda Linden and Grace Colaw have been piecing together strips of paper from a shredder, among other investigation.
"I like getting the cases and finding out what happened and who did it," she said. "You get freedom, and you get to choose what you get to do. I didn't expect it to be this extreme. It's more life like."
It's this type of dedication the class was designed for.
"That was our goal, to get these kids to dig deeper and go farther," Carver said. "We want this snowball effect to happen, where they say, 'This is what we known, but what can we do to get that deeper level of understanding?'"
Page 2 of 2 - This interactive, contextual learning couldn't have happened without the coordination of Nakai and Carver. Much of the crime scenes genius stems from Nakai's life-long love of mystery books and shows.
"I just have a passion for mysteries. I always have," she said.
She has considered writing books herself in the past, but this class has been a way she can make the stories come to life.
Co-teacher Carver didn't hesitate when he realized he could do his part with a bonfire and a hammer. Using donated materials from local businesses, he was soon able to create a realistic scene that went beyond what they had originally envisioned for the class.
The public will have an opportunity to see demonstrations of the students' research during a showcase Dec. 15, along with other Bullpup Scholar students.
"The students are eager and proud to show what they've learned," Nakai said. "This is just a good way to celebrate our high ability kids."
Until then, however, the mystery crime scenes remain unsolved.