TOME—It was murder, mayhem and Shakespeare at the Valencia High School campus last week.
Freshman English students were joined by five local law enforcement officers from the Los Lunas and Bosque Farms police departments as they investigated mock crime scenes from the Shakespeare classic “Romeo and Juliet.”
“This was actually created by Kate Malone, a Farmington English teacher,” said VHS ninth-grade English teacher Jeanie Stokes. “It combines literature, writing skills and career exploration.”
During two English class periods on Thursday, April 4, students broke into groups and visited crime scenes in Verona, Italy, home to the star-crossed teen lovebirds.
Each scene was populated by dead characters from the play, portrayed by members of the VHS drama department, as well as prop swords, baskets of bread and even crypt, complete with partial skeleton.
“The goal is for students to understand that writing skills carry with them into their future career, maybe even law enforcement,” Stokes said. “This will teach how to be observant, good note taking. They will have to do witness interviews as well, so they will have to use their speaking skills to ask questions.”
The final part of the exercise requires the group to write two police reports about the scenes they observed.
“I’m excited to do this. This will teach them about the need to write accurately,” the teacher said. “It’s a great opportunity to combine a classical piece of literature with writing skills and have positive interaction with law enforcement.”
The officers worked with the classes for two days. On the first day, they taught the students about how to go about gathering information — identifying who, what, when, where, why and how at each crime scene — and stressing the importance of a clear, well-written report at the end.
On the second day was the round of investigations.
Freshman Jonathon Groher said he was excited to work on the project.
“I like forensic science and it’s interesting to learn how writing well is so important,” Groher said. “How important it will be when we get a job.”
VHS school resource officer Robert Ferreyra, who is also the lead resource officer for Los Lunas Schools, said he enjoyed working on the project with the students.
“Maybe it showed them some of the basic things law enforcement officers go through every day and they gained some respect for the field,” Ferreyra said.
“This introduces them to some possible career paths. It’s also great for building a relationship between kids and law enforcement officers. I’d rather they run toward me than way.”
The other officers who helped with the mock scene investigations were officer Marilyn Rodriguez and Sgt. Charles Baca from Bosque Farms, and officers Ed Taylor and Erika Selisky from Los Lunas.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.