On the edge of campus, police tape blocks off a small section of land, and students cautiously dug into the earth. They weren't looking to catch a criminal, but rather a learning opportunity.
It's all part of a workshop at Minnesota State University Mankato that gives students a chance get their hands dirty and learn about crime scenes involving human remains.
MSU Anthropologist Dr. Kathleen Blue says, "Kind of cover what skeletons can tell us about the individual and about the crime: if it was a crime, the circumstance itself."
The class consisted of college students, teachers looking to bring some hand on experience back to their classroom, and even law enforcement personnel, like Eric Strop with the Rochester Police Department.
Sgt. Strop says, "Some of the crime scenes that we encounter may involve digging up remains of somebody and I don't have any real experience in that area so I though this would be kind of beneficial."
Crimes scenes, especially where human bone may be present, require special handling and expertise. So students learn the best way to recover and preserve all the evidence.
U of M student India Addinton–White says, "We're not supposed to remove the skeleton, you just sort of dig around it and leave it in place until everything is uncovered."
Unlike what you see on TV, this process is slow and steady and students will spend all day excavating one area.
Knoll says, "What you see in TV is not what happens in real life."
Now these students aren't experts by any means, but they're certainly equipped to separate reality from television fiction.
Blue says, ""Now they are going to have at least the expertise to know some of the steps to follow what the procedures are."
MSU holds this workshop every summer; so if you are interested in participating next year, contact the college of Extended Learning.