FARMINGTON — As part of a week-long lesson on law enforcement for their civics and government unit, seventh-grade students at Heights Middle School learned how to photograph evidence and dust for fingerprints.

Students in Eric Stovall's and Sherri Sanchez's social studies classes participated in five days of activities and heard presentations from local law enforcement officers and the San Juan County District Attorney.

During the week, Stovall said students discussed topics like the criminal justice system, crime scene management and the dangers of traffic violations, such as drunken driving and speeding.

Bloomfield Police Department Detective Caleb Coate talks Thursday with the Heights Middle School seventh-grade classes about crime scene protocol during a
Bloomfield Police Department Detective Caleb Coate talks Thursday with the Heights Middle School seventh-grade classes about crime scene protocol during a class at the Farmington school. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Stovall is a former deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office and previously worked as an officer for the Aztec Police Department. He believes the lessons gave students a hands-on opportunity to learn.

"I think that our kids, when they have the ability to utilize tactical lessons, I think they retain the knowledge a lot better," Stovall said.

During Thursday's lesson, Bloomfield Police Department Detectives Carlos Loomis and Caleb Coate showed students procedures for examining crime scenes.

A classroom was set up for students to photograph evidence of a footprint left by a "suspect" at the scene of crime. There were also dusting bottles and paperwork for fingerprinting a "suspect."

Coate walked students through the process of documenting a footprint embedded in loose soil. He also coached them on how to photograph the evidence with a digital camera while Loomis showed students techniques for dusting a surface using a brush and powder to detect the ridges of a human fingerprint.

"I think it's every citizens' responsibility to learn about American history, what our rights are and what the Constitution says," Loomis said.

Bloomfield Police Department Detective Carlos Loomis, right, instructs Amelio Arviso, left, and the rest of the seventh-grade class about finding
Bloomfield Police Department Detective Carlos Loomis, right, instructs Amelio Arviso, left, and the rest of the seventh-grade class about finding fingerprints on Thursday at Heights Middle School in Farmington. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Earlier in the week, Farmington police officers brought in police K-9s and their handlers to teach about how search and seizure applies to routine traffic stops or searches by law enforcement.

San Juan County District Attorney Rick Tedrow spoke about the duties and responsibilities of his office and the Judicial Branch and described how the election process works.

Seventh-grader Noah Haley said it was cool to learn about how crime scenes are analyzed and how warrants factor into the ways law enforcement search personal property for evidence.

"It's been easier to understand because you are learning from the people that actually do it everyday," Haley said.

Sanchez said she believes the lessons have been engaging for her students.

"It helps them absorb it a little more then just giving them a worksheet in the classroom or making them read out of a textbook," Sanchez said. "This makes it stick with them and engages them, they're here to learn and understand it."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.