by Hale Hughes
It was a day every third grader enrolled at Fred Elementary School looks forward to each year and one that is fondly remembered by other students. "Detective Day" is a festive, annual event that has been building since its inception just fåour years ago. Melissa Rice is a third grade teacher who has a passion for mystery novels and wanted to inspire her young readers in a way that captured their young imaginations in a way that was fun, but practical, factual and real for them as well. She came up with the idea when reviewing her lesson plans that covered different reading genres. Dective Day is the culmination of weeks of preparation as the students read two different mysteries and are challenged by Rice as a part of the lesson plan to create case files, find clues and track them, and to submit their detective case at the end of the study. Detective Day is held the day before the winter break so the kids can have a real-life interaction with county sheriff deputies and see some of the real life items used by the department and work in different stations around the classroom, from fingerprints to problem solving to seeing the police vehicles and hearing their sirens to trying on a raid vest.
This is a fun filled, smiles everywhere, all-day event for each of Fred's 27 third-graders. These young students get to do the stations and interact with the sheriff department and then get to watch a Nancy Drew mystery movie during the afternoon to close out their detective day. Rice spoke about some of the other benefits of this interaction with local officers. "A lot of times, cops can get a bad rap for just doing their job, and these kids can see these detectives and get some real interaction with them and see that not only are they nice people, but what they do for a living is something that is neat and cool in the eyes of these young people," Rice shared. She added that this started relatively small and has grown and other students remind the teachers that they didn't get to do certain things that are provided, but it's exciting to see the interest flourish under the leadership at Fred Elementary.
Keppi Fortenberry is another third grade teacher who has been involved with the program for three years now and helps Rice include science with math as well as social studies to encompass Detective Day. "They get to participate in fingerprinting with the officers."
Fortenberry also echoed Rice's comments regarding the interaction with the officers. By talking with these officers today, these kids can be comfortable around them and they know that the officers, like the teachers and parents are a trustworthy source for them and this interaction helps facilitate that comfort they can have with our local law enforcement. We're a small community and it's critical that our kids know and trust the officers so they can report to them and this is a great time to plant that seed in our kids."
Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford spoke about this great opportunity for his department. "Officer Tracy Bump has really taken the ball and run with this. We've been doing this since I began here. We want these youngsters to know and to be able to trust us and our officers and help let these kids know that we have a close working relationship with their teachers. It's a win-win when we can build a rapport with these kids and also the teachers in the schools and develop that trust as well. It also adds that element of excitement and fun for them, and it's always nice to let these youngsters see what we normally do."