The area behind Pacheco High School's Building D looked like something out of an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" Friday.
Twenty-four students involved in Pacheco High's digital media pathway, unique to the school, began a class project that melds science, math, English and filmmaking with simulated police work.
A police car sat with lights flashing next to the roughly 12-by-12-foot square marked with police tape. The evidence included a single shoe, a binder, a book bag, a "Star Wars" book, a large rock, a hair sash and a magazine.
Digital media teacher Gary Bettencourt said the students in his class, who are grouped in fours, will make a documentary of themselves solving the simulated crime.
"Anytime they make progress, they have to film it," Bettencourt said. "Anytime they interview a suspect, they have to film it."
Bettencourt said as the groups develop leads, they'll have to interview other students and teachers, which have already been planted in the crime's storyline.
The crime-solving process will include written reports and online algebra problems, so that the other curriculums students are learning are incorporated into the project, Bettencourt said. The rock found at the scene will also tie earth science into the project.
"It should last through mid-November, by the time they make their arrest and solve the case," Bettencourt said.
Bettencourt put the project together with three other teachers.
"It's a way to incorporate curriculum in a fun way," Bettencourt said. "It's something different that gets them out of class."
School Resource officer Dusty Norris, who helped in the crime scenario, said the simulated scene was relatively similar to a real-world crime scene. He said most students only see police work on TV, so this project would give them a more realistic taste of the action.
"This is pretty close," Norris said. "What we do is label everything, photograph everything, take samples -- exactly the same way we do it in the field."
Norris said he thought the project was a great idea.
The first group who got a crack at the evidence drew a few conclusions from the scene.
Freshman Edith Aceves said the evidence suggested that a girl was being harassed by a boy. She said she was looking forward to completing the project.
"It's exciting," she said.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos