SPARTA, NJ – The seventh grade students on the Ruby team played detective on Thursday.  Sparta Lt. John Lamon and Officer Brian Porter brought a crime scene to the school to allow students to hone their observation skills.

The students read “And Then There Were None,” by Agatha Christie in their English class with Desiree Viggiano, as part of their core reading, according to English Language Arts Supervisor Mary Hassenplug.

“The point was close reading, looking at details of the text,” Hassenplug said.  “It crossed over into science.”

Sign Up for Sparta Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Viggiano had the students create models of the crime scenes detailed in the book.  While discussing them, a student spoke about his experience with a mock crime scene at the Junior Police Academy. 

He shared his knowledge about looking at details and putting the puzzle together.  The student had participated in the summer program run by the Sparta Police Department, organized by Lamon. 

When Viggiano reached out to Lamon to let him know the positive impact the Junior Police Academy had on the student, Lamon offered to bring a mock crime scene to the school. 

“I wanted him to know about the connection [the Junior Police Academy] made between the social level and educational level. It snowballed from there,” Viggiano said.

Lamon told the students they point of the exercise was to “make you think about more than the obvious.  You’ll see the items but what does it mean.”

“When we go to a crime scene we have one chance to get the evidence,” Lamon said. “We have to be slow and meticulous.  If we miss something or contaminate the scene it’s no longer good evidence.”

For the exercise, Viggiano chose 10 students by lottery to participate. With the rest of the class looking on pairs of detectives walked the crime scene recording their observations;

  • A door with a broken window,
  • Blood on the broken glass,
  • A weapon or tool on the floor,
  • Two sets of footprints, one small and one large,
  • Cash on the floor near a book,
  • A bed with a cell phone on it,
  • Cigarette butts,
  • A beer bottle,
  • Open drawers with clothes hanging out,
  • An open jewelry box with costume jewelry
  • An open window.

The detectives then adjourned to the hall to put together their theory of the crime.  They returned with a couple of theories.   

Porter and Lamon got additional impressions from the students observing.  The officers explained how a policeman would speak with the crime victims, look at the evidence and what they have experienced at crime scenes.

Lamon and Porter told the students what the crime scene suggested to them. 

“The mock crime scene was an exercise in getting the students to think outside the box,” Lamon said. “Anyone can observe and record but it takes a higher level of thought to analyze and develop a theory.  This exercise can be applied to the study of any subject taught in school.”

Tentative dates for the 2020 Junior Police Academy are August 26 to 28.