Students were first on the scene last week at Jay M. Robinson High School, where a trail of blood led to a body in the school's courtyard.
The blood was fake and the body was a dummy, but students - armed with gloves and tweezers - scoured the courtyard, searching for clues that might help solve the case.
Students in the school's forensics classes played the role of investigators at a mock crime scene set up to teach them the basics of forensic science.
The classes' teacher, Joy Knight, helped set up the crime scene with Dr. Christina Brooks, the founder and executive director of Forensics 101, a nonprofit science enrichment organization that sends forensic scientists to schools, libraries and museums in the Charlotte metro area. The scientists provide high school and middle school students with hands-on activities.
Brooks, a forensic anthropologist from Charlotte who also is a professor at Winthrop University, said Forensics 101 is designed to give students a more realistic view of forensic science.
The organization intends to combat what Brooks described as the "CSI effect," the glamorization of forensic science through television shows.
"CSI' has destroyed the real image of forensics," Brooks said. "It gives us the entertaining aspect, but not the hard work. We don't solve every single case. A lot of people say they want to do forensics, but they have no idea what it means."
Before students arrived, Brooks pressed a sneaker into moist dirt to create footprints, placed strands of hair in a trash can and splattered fake blood against a brick wall over a dummy - the victim.
Students were only told that a body had been found. They later received an autopsy report and a list of suspects.
"I think I might have something here," said senior Yolonda Leftwich as she peered into a mulch-covered area near the body.
Leftwich, who will attend Queens College, said she wants to become a lawyer, but she's recently started leaning toward forensics.
She carefully stepped around the crime scene, sketching an image of the area and measuring the length of the blood splatter and footprints.
Students will analyze the evidence they collected. Some of the evidence, such as "blood" samples, will be sent to Brooks, who will send back a DNA analysis to the class.
"This is what they live for," Knight said as students collected evidence.
The crime scene will be incorporated into the students' final exam. They'll create a mock trial and present the evidence to Knight, who will play the role of judge.
The forensics class, an elective science course at Jay M. Robinson High School, teaches students crime scene protocol, how to collect evidence such footprints and fingerprints and how to examine evidence under a microscope. The class adheres to FBI protocol and has had guest speakers from local police and fire departments.
Knight said several of her students plan to pursue degrees or careers in forensics or criminal justice.
Emily Leathers, a junior at Hickory Ridge High School who travels to Jay M. Robinson High School for the forensics class, said she wants to work in forensics.
She collected fingerprints off a trash can at the scene and jumped in excitement when she found a strand of hair to add to the collection of evidence.
"I learned that 'CSI' isn't realistic and collecting evidence is hard and time-consuming," she said.