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Forensic Science Lesson Plans:
Daily CSI Challenges Crime Scenes & Testimonial Evidence Physical Evidence Fingerprinting
Impression Evidence Hairs & Fibers Chromatography Blood Basics Forensic Entomology
Forensic Anthropology DNA Evidence Arson Investigation CRASH Unit
CSI Adventure (Geocaching Activity) Supply Companies & Supply List
During the 2006-2007 school year I started teaching a 9-week course on Forensic Science as one of our 8th grade activity classes. A brief outline is available in PDF format – Quarter Outline and a list of supplies is available at the bottom of this page. Listed below are the powerpoints, worksheets, and other resources I use during the class. I have a SmartBoard in my classroom and many of the presentations (unit and review) are set up so students can help me fill in the answers as we discuss the notes or while they check their worksheets. Please e-mail me if you have any questions.
I have created reference cards for many of the units/activities listed below, which are designed to replace the student worksheets and some lab pages for those units. The cards are printed on card stock (back-to-back) and laminated for student use. Students use overhead markers to add notes to the pages as we discuss each lesson and keep them to review for the unit quizzes. (You could also have students record their answers in a lab notebook rather than write on the pages.) At the end of the unit, they clean them off with a wet cloth and turn them in so they are ready for the next class! Less paper wasted and less time copying – a double bonus! In addition, the reference card format will allow special education students (and other students with learning challenges) to focus on the lesson and avoids possible frustration at trying to keep up with the class notes. They will have all the information they need in one place.
Daily CSI Challenges
I start each class period with a warm-up activity targeting forensic science concepts and other skills (observation, problem-solving, etc.) The challenges are in the form of PowerPoint presentations and include spot-the-differences puzzles, mini mysteries, trivia challenges, and vocabulary builders. I have also created several warm-ups that incorporate CSI-related videos that are available online.
Unit 1: Crime Scene & Eyewitness Basics
During this unit students learn basic vocabulary associated with crime scene analysis as well as explore testimonial evidence (eyewitness accounts and FACES facial composites software to create – see the list of supply companies at the bottom of this page.) They also get a chance to investigate a crime through the CHIN Interactive Investigator website, which helps to introduce them to many of the topics we discuss throughout the quarter-long class.
Also available … CSI Online: Eyewitness Basics (PDF) – This worksheet includes the Art of Crime Detection activity as well as other observation type activities found on the Forensic Science page at the Kid Zone.
Quiz: Unit 1 Quiz (PDF)
Other General Resources:
Forensic Science A to Z Challenge (PDF) – Students must use clues to identify forensic science terms and then find them in a “bent word” style word search. They use the letters that remain in the puzzle to figure out a mystery word.
United Streaming: Forensics Movie Worksheet (PDF)– Students complete this worksheet as they watch the United Streaming movie titled “Life Science: Forensics”. Note: United Steaming is a subscription-based website available from Discovery Education.
CSI Web Adventures – Rookie Training (PDF) – Students complete this worksheet and learn how evidence is analyzed in a crime lab as they work through the different sections of rookie training. Also challenge your students to solve Case 2or Case 3(includes student worksheets and answer keys)
Memory Match Game (PDF) – This game challenges a student’s ability to remember what they’ve seen as they examine cards with a variety of patterns on them. Game rules and pattern cards are provided in the download.
Face Misidentification Activity – Check out this lesson from Purdue to challenge students to analyze various pictures, collect data, and then compile the information and apply it to real-world situations.
FBI Crime Lab (PDF) – Thanks to Stephanie Vallejo for sharing this worksheet for use with the History Channel’s FBI Crime Scene DVD.
NEW … Check out my new version of the FBI Crime Lab video worksheet that includes discussion questions for each section. The DVD is available through the History Channel website.
CSI Effect –
CSI Effect – A good article to start a discussion on real forensic science vs. TV versions.
Science Friday: Finding Fault with Forensics – Visit this page for more information on the topic and a podcast to share with your students.
Unit 2: Physical Evidence
During this unit students explore the various types of physical evidence that can be found at a crime scene and learn how they are used to help investigators. I usually do the introductory lesson to provide an overview of many types of physical evidence and then spend time investigating several of them in more detail, such as fingerprints, impression evidence (tire tracks), hairs & fibers, chromatography, blood evidence. and DNA.
Reference Card: Power of Evidence: Physical Evidence Card (PDF) – This two-sided handout replaces the worksheet listed above.
Other Physical & Trace Evidence Resources:
United Streaming: Value of Evidence Movie Worksheet (PDF)– Students complete this worksheet as they watch the Discovery Education video segment titled “Value of Evidence” It is a segment from the “Forensic Detectives: Mysteries & Solutions” movie.
Power of Evidence Challenge (PDF) – Challenge your students to this word search/scramble using terms discussed in the Power of Evidence presentation.
Forensic Files – , Students complete the worksheets as they watch the various episodes from Forensic Files DVD. The DVD set is available for rent from Netflix and may be found at online stores. Worksheets (includes answer key) are available for the following episodes: Tourist Trap (PDF), Past Lives (PDF), Zodiac Killer (PDF), Over & Out (PDF)
Also available ….
Forensic Files Graphic Organizer (PDF) – Thanks to Luann Snider for submitting this worksheet that can be used with any of the Forensic Files episodes. I
Forensic Files Episode Worksheet – This can be used with any of the Forensic Files episodes.
Christmas Cookie Mystery – Use this lesson listed on the Chemistry Lessons page to investigate white powders. The lesson can be adapted to fit any holiday in order to be used at other times of the year.
Murder & a Meal (PDF) – Thanks to Camron Stanley for sharing this lab investigating the science of vomit! The download includes student worksheets and teacher notes.
ACS Chem Matters – Glass: More Than Meets the Eye (PDF) – A great article exploring the use of glass as evidence. Ateacher’s guide (DOC) is also available.
During this unit students learn how to identify the different fingerprint patterns as well as other details that help investigators match fingerprints. They are able to practice making and lifting prints and are challenged to match unknown and known in the Fingerprint Challenge. I purchased ink pads, black powder, brushes, and other materials to make several kits to allow students to work in small groups. See the list of supply companies at the bottom of this page.
NOTE: I highly recommend the magnetic fingerprint wands and dust if you have the money available to purchase them. They are less messy than the traditional black powder and fiber brushes.
Reference Card: Fingerprint Basics Card (PDF) – This two-sided handout replaces the worksheets for all of the fingerprint lessons.
Questions about the reference cards? See the note at the top of this page.
Fingerprint Guide (PDF) – This one-page handout includes examples for all of the ridge patterns and characteristics discussed in the fingerprinting lessons.
Other Fingerprinting Resources:
Fingerprint Challenge (PDF) – Students use their investigative skills to match fingerprint samples.
Fingerprint Analysis (PPT) – I use this activity with my students to analyze the distribution of fingerprint patterns in each class. After students complete the My Prints worksheet and classify their prints, they complete the top section of theFingerprint Analysis worksheet. We calculate the percentages for each pattern and discuss how it relates to the expected percentages presented in class. We also analyze the distribution of patterns for males vs. females and discuss the results after students have completed the bottom section of the worksheet.
My Toe Prints worksheet (PDF) – Students are always interested in examining their toe prints to see how they compare to their fingerprints. Instead of using the incapax from the fingerprint unit, the students create their own “ink” by rubbing pencils on an index card and then pressing it to their toes. They use a piece of clear tape to lift the print and tape it to the correct spot on the worksheet.
Lip Print Activity (PDF) – Thanks to Dina Sbarra for sharing her lip print mystery activity. She went around the school and got lip marks from several teachers at her school on paper and then put them in sheet protectors. She had one teacher also mark their lips on a plastic cup (the criminal that destroyed her room). She toilet papered my room and the students had to find out who did it. She put the lip prints on the screen so they could look at the various types to help them classify the lip prints and identify the one from the culprit.
I use this presentation to introduce the topic of impression evidence and then students investigate tire tracks, tool marks, and shoe prints.
Reference Card: Impression Evidence (PDF) – This handout replaces the student worksheet for the introductory presentation and may be used as a guide for the challenges listed below.
Questions about the reference cards? See the note at the top of this page.
Tire Tracks Challenge (PDF) – This lesson idea was submitted by Sandy Powell, a member of the Middle School Science Yahoo Group. The activity challenges students to match tire tracks of 8-10 small toy cars. Teacher information, a student worksheet, and a sample page of my challenge are provided in the download. A PowerPoint is available to introduce the activity and challenge.
Tool Marks Challenge (PDF) – This activity challenges students to match tool impressions from a set of 12 tools. Teacher information and a student worksheet are provided in the download. Also available … my challenge page and aPowerPoint to introduce the activity and challenge.
Need materials for a tool mark identification lab? VisitPrecision Forensic Tesing to see their tool mark identification kit. They also offer an accessory kit and poster. Be sure to check out their Basic Firearms and other materials for exploring ballistics.
Bite Mark Evidence (PDF) – This activity allows students to practice making and analyzing bite mark impressions using stryrofoam plates and a variety of soft candy. This activity goes along with the material presented in the introductory presentation listed above. A PowerPoint is available for this activity.
NOTE: As with any lab involving food, be aware of any food allergies that may be a concern with your students.
Hairs & Fibers
Hairs & Fibers (PPT) – I use this presentation to introduce the use of hairs and fibers as evidence. This unit includes an “up close” look at hairs and fibers using microscopes and an assortment of prepared slides. At the end of the lesson, I have students complete the Hair & Fiber Challenge to test their ability to identify various samples.
Hairs & Fibers Note Worksheet (PDF) – Student worksheet for the presentation.
Hair Lab Worksheet (PDF) – Students examine their own hair sample as well as other animal hairs to complete this worksheet.
Hair & Fiber ID Lab Worksheet (PDF) -Students use microscopes to draw pictures of 6 hair and 6 fiber samples.
NOTE: I created slide sets of 9 animal hairs and 6 fibers for students to use for this activity. A worksheet for this number of samples is also available.
Hair & Fiber Challenge (PDF) – I used my microscope camera to capture images of the various hairs and fibers the students observed in class. I printed several sets of this worksheet on card stock and laminated them to keep them for future classes. I challenge the students to use their notes and observation pages to identify each one.
During this lesson students learn about the use of chromatography in crime investigations and use paper chromatography to test black markers. At the end of the unit, I use four of the tested markers to create a Mystery Pen challenge. The students test the four mystery markers and compare them to the samples they previously tested. The challenge is set up as a race to see which student team can be the first to correctly identify them.
Also try this one … Permanent Marker Chromatography – We used permanent markers and rubbing alcohol to “decorate” our lab aprons or white t-shirts that the students brought to class.
During this unit students learn about the basics of blood evidence. From the composition of blood and blood types to bloodstain pattern analysis, students investigate how blood evidence can be used in a crime investigation. I use simulated blood samples purchased from Ward’s. See the list of supply companies at the bottom of this page.
Need a cheaper version of the Blood Typing Lab? The version listed below uses milk, vinegar, and water instead of the regular simulated blood kits available from the science supply companies.
Presentation: “Ernie’s Exit” Blood Typing Lab – “Cheap” Version (PPT)
Worksheet: Blood Typing Basics – “Cheap” Version (PDF)(Includes teacher notes)
Blood Basics Card w/ Blood Typing Lab – This two-sided handout replaces the worksheets for the first two presentations and blood typing lab.
Bloodstain Science Card with Blood Spatter Lab – This two-sided handout replaces the worksheets for the Bloodstain Science presentation and lab.
Blood Basics & Bloodstain Science Card (PDF) – This two-sided handout goes with the Blood Basics, Blood Typing, & Blood Spatter presentations. It does not include the lab sheets – you will need to print those out separately.
Questions about the reference cards? See the note at the top of this page.
Quiz: Blood Basics Quiz (PDF)
Other Resources for Blood Evidence:
Blood Basics Online (PDF) – I use this worksheet after the first presentation to reinforce the topics discussed and reinforce the concepts in blood typing after we’ve done the classroom blood typing lab. The sites are listed on the Forensic Science page at the Kid Zone
Also available … Blood Typing Booklet – Thanks to Christina Beatty for sharing her booklet that she uses with her students to help them understand blood typing.
Materials: Blood Typing Booklet, Booklet Cut-Outs, andBooklet Key
During this unit students learn about DNA and its use in forensic science. After discussing the information on the reference card, students create DNA keychains, which are used for an identification activity in which students have to match their keychains with a paper model. Other lessons and activities are listed below.
Teacher’s Domain – DNA Fingerprints – Find videos, worksheets, and lesson ideas for your DNA unit.
Who Ate the Cheese – Students simulate electrophoresis and DNA fingerprinting to solve a crime.
Mystery of the Stolen Artifacts – Students investigate DNA evidence to solve a crime involving the theft of ancient pottery.
DNA Resources – Check out the collection of links available at the site for activities investigating DNA.
Life Science: DNA Who Done It – Students use eyewitness accounts and DNA evidence to solve the mystery.
Dolly DNA – This activity is created to determine if Dolly is a clone or not.
DNA Fingerprinting – This download provides background information on how a DNA fingerprint is created and includes two cases to analyze.
Unit 3: Forensic Entomology
During this unit students learn about forensic entomology and its use in investigating crime scenes.
Introductory Presentation: Forensic Entomology (PPT)
Worksheet: Forensic Entomology Student Notes (PDF)
Online Lessons & Resources for Forensic Entomology:
Crime Solving Insects (PDF) – This unit from the 4-H organization provides a wealth of information for teaching forensic entomology.
1 – I have developed a PowerPoint presentation, activity card(notes on front & lab page on back), and case cards to go along with this unit. I set up 6 “evidence” packets for each of the four cases – pipe cleaner samples of “maggots” and “pupae” along with a case card. I laminated the activity cards and students will use overhead markers to record their data and write the answers to the questions.
2 – I also did the optional activity outlined in the unit over the summer to provide real maggot and pupa samples for the students to examine as we disscussed the Forensic Entromology PPT. I collected a variety of maggots (species and sizes) as well as pupa and preserved them in glass vials with 50% isopropyl alcohol.
Forensic Entomology Unit – An excellent resource for junior high and high school students; includes background information, case studies, and a game involving forensic entomology.
Visible Proofs: Entomology in Action – This lesson introduces students to the blow fly’s life cycle and the accumulated degree hour (ADH) used by forensic entomologists for estimating the time of death.
Introduction to Forensic Entomology (PPT) – This presentation contains a wealth of information and would be useful for upper-level students.
Unit 4: Forensic Anthropology
During this unit, students learn to identify the main bones in the human body as well as investigate the role of forensic anthropologists in crime solving. The presentation includes links to several online videos along with other information and two activities.
Introductory Presentation: Bone Basics (PPT)
Bag O’ Bones – I purchased sets of bones from an online company for use with this activity. You will also need large butcher paper.
Bone Challenge – I prepared several sets of the skeleton cut-outs. You will also need blindfolds for the students and timers.
Kids Discover – Bones Magazine – A great resource available from the Kids Discover store that provides a good background of information about bones, joints, and much more. I purchaed a set of 15 for the students to use in pairs and created a worksheetto use with the magazine.
Skeleton X-rays – I purchased a set of these from Science Kitand the kids love putting them together to make a skeleton.
Unit 5: Arson Investigation
Through the help of our local fire department, students explore the basics of fire science and arson investigation. I also include lessons on fire safety and reinforce the fact that playing with fires can cause major damage and deaths. If possible, have a member of your local fire department present a fire safety program for your students. Visit the FEMA website for a good brochure on Children and Fire.
Unit Review: Fire Basics Review (PDF) and Fire Basics Review Answer Key (PPT) – Thanks to Christopher Hunter for sharing these materials.
Unit Assessment: Fire Basics Quiz (PDF) – Thanks to Christopher Hunter for sharing this quiz.
20/20 Arson Investigation (PDF) – Thanks to Dana Long for sharing this video and worksheet that investigates the science of arson investigation.
Flame Test Video at YouTube
Fire Safety Checklist from http://www.sparky.org/family.html
Unit 6: Accident Reconstruction
During this unit students investigate Newton’s Laws of Motion to analyze an accident scene to determine the sequence of events that lead up to the accident, explain damage resulting from the accident, and “solve” cases. I use activities fromCRASH: The Science of Collisions, which is geared towards the high school level, but several of the activities targeting Newton’s Laws can be used at the junior high level. Our district purchased the CRASH kit and I share it with the high school physics teacher. Many of the lessons could also be incorporated into driver’s education classes. Use the contact form on their website to see if your high school can receive the program for free!
Understanding Car Crashes: It’s Basic Physics – Lessons and a DVD are available for $35 from this site. Scroll down the page to find the information.
I developed this geocaching activity for use with the CSI summer camp program at the Smithsonian in DC. For this activity, teams of students use GSP receivers to find 10 “evidence” caches. Each cache contains a cache card with 3-4 questions the students must answer or tasks they need complete. Each cache has a different theme and relate to the material the students investigated during the camp. After a team completes a cache and has all the correct answers, they are provided with a clue card that will help them determine the next waypoint in the adventure.
Supply Companies – The links below are provided to give teachers information about the forensic science supplies I use with my classes.
My Supply List – Includes links to the supply companies and item numbers along with the amounts of each I purchased for my classes.
Ward’s – A large selection of resources for a forensic science class, including the Forensic Detectives Lab I use in my classes. I also purchase my simulated blood kits from them.
Educational Innovations – Visit the “Forensic Kits” area for the Ward’s Forensic Detectives Lab that includes an assortment of materials and the FACES software I use for facial composites. I have also had good luck with their Perfect Ink fingerprint ink pads listed on the “Genuine Forensic & Crime Scene Materials” page.
NOTE: Use Ultimate Flash Faces as an alternative for the FACES software.
Lynn Peavey – My source for fingerprint brushes and other fingerprinting equipment. Good prices and service!
Cafe Press – My favorite site for CSI t-shirts!
Precision Forensic Testing – Visit this site for an assortment of great kits for your forensic science program.
Mystery of Lyle & Louise – This site offers an assortment of kits to present forensic science concepts in a way your students can enjoy.
Also available … Lesson Plan Links for Forensic Science
Links to my favorite online resources for lesson plans, activities, and worksheets.