Title: Crime Solving Activities


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heme: Forensic Science

Title: Crime Solving Activities
Overview: Forensic science it the study of objects that relate to a crime. Forensic scientists study evidence so that it can be used in a court of law. Forensic scientists observe, classify, compare, use numbers, measure, predict, interpret data, and draw inferences based on evidence. In this lesson, students will use these science inquiry skills.
Grade Level: Grades 3-4
Subject Matter: Science

Duration: approximately 3 class periods of 40 minutes each

National Standards Addressed:

Standard A: Science as Inquiry

  • Fundamental abilities of inquiry

  • Properties of objects and materials


Students will observe a room, sketching and taking notes, with attention to detail.

  • Students will observe their fingerprints and classify their prints as arch, loop, or whorl.

  • Students will make teeth impressions and identify others by these.


  • Computers with Internet access

  • Grade/class appropriate detective story

  • One clipboard per child

  • Drawing paper and notebook paper

  • Magnifying lens per child

  • Ink pad

  • Scissors

  • Paper plate per child

  • Marking pen

  • Chunk of thick cheese per child

  • Board game Clue (several games)

Day 1:

  1. Identifying Forensic Science

  1. Read a detective mystery story to the class. (Nate the Great books would work well.)

  • Discuss the job of a detective using examples from the book. Be sure the children mention evidence.

  1. Watch this PBS Kids episode on forensic science.

Forensics by Kali and Carolyn - Dragonfly TV / PBS Kids


  • Lead the class in a deeper discussion of what detectives do and what forensic science is.

  • Have the children discuss what they would do if they were a detective called to a crime scene. (The video shown earlier is a good example.) They should mention observe everything, take notes, draw a sketch, don’t disturb anything.

  1. Next pretend that a crime was committed in another room of the school. Possibly a classroom that is empty for the period or a storage room or unused room. It must be large enough for the students to all go into and sit down in the middle.

  • Give each child a clipboard and take them into the room with paper to sketch and write notes.

  • Tell them to draw everything they see and write down anything unusual they see.
  • While in there, the teacher should write down some questions to ask the class when they return to their own classroom. (Ex: What was on the desk? Was there anything written on the chalkboard? What is the floor covering?)

Day 2:

  1. Have the children review the notes and sketches done during the last lesson.

  1. Ask them the questions to see how well they did observing and recording the information.

  2. Relate what they just did to what forensic scientists do at crime scenes.

  3. If necessary, take them back to the same room so they can observe more carefully. Explaining that detectives often return more than once to a crime scene.

  1. Discuss using fingerprints to solve crimes.

  1. Using a hand lens, have students examine their fingerprints and other classmates. Ask them to draw the pattern they see in their fingerprints.

  2. Then have children work with a partner to make a set of fingerprints.

  3. Press one finger at a time on an ink pad. The partner holds the hand steady and presses and rolls each finger onto a clean sheet of paper. Print each finger on each hand and label.

  1. Each child in the class should have a paper with their 10 finger prints. See if the class can classify the fingerprints into the different types. (arch, loop, whirl)

  2. For reference, have students go to the following website to see different kinds of fingerprints: http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/fingerprint-2.gif

Day 3:

  1. Do Teeth Impressions activity from Handout section.

  2. The children can culminate this unit by playing the board game Clue.



Forensic dentists assist in crime solving by studying teeth and teeth impressions. Dental records are often used to identify people. Because teeth are one of the hardest substances in the human body, they are frequently well preserved. Dental x-rays or records showing fillings, position of teeth, etc. can help forensic dentists find a match of teeth to the individual. Eighty percent of the time teeth impressions are used to identify unknown victims.

As a forensic dentist you will have the chance to match teeth impressions to discover who took the bite?

Materials Lists


Styrofoam plate

Marking Pen

The procedures for making teeth impressions are:

  1. Divide the styrofoam plate into six equal wedges. Cut the wedges.
  2. Take two of the wedges and stack them together. Cut off 1 inch from the pointed end of the wedges.

  3. Place the two wedges into your mouth as far as possible.

  4. Bite down on the wedges firmly and then remove them.

  5. Label the top and bottom wedges Top Teeth and Bottom Teeth.

  6. Study the teeth impressions. Count the number of teeth in the top and bottom impressions. What other characteristics of the impressions do you notice? Compare the top teeth impressions to the bottom. Are there teeth missing, spaces, chips, etc.?

Practice being a forensic dentist by leaving the room. One student in the room will take a bite of thick cheese or thick chocolate. See if you can identify the individual who took the bite by comparing the impressions with the bite in the cheese or chocolate.

Additional Resources
Image Galleries
Forensic Entomology Insects (click on names of insects in text for pictures) – Iowa State University


Web Sites
Kids’ Science Challenge – Scroll down to Detective Science http://www.kidsciencechallenge.com/html/sciencefair.php
Forensic Science for Kids – All-about-forensic-science.com

How DNA Evidence Works – Howstuffworks.com

Putting DNA to Work - NAS Science Museum

Forensic Entomology – Science in School

Decomposition: What happens to the Body After Death? – Australian Museum


FBI Youth (see games, working dogs) – Federal Bureau of Investigations

CSI: Crime Scene Investigated – University of Wisconsin


Kids’ Science Challenge – Scroll down to Detective Science for great videos

Forensics by Kali and Carolyn - Dragonfly TV / PBS Kids


Animation / Interactive
Autopsy of a Murder / Interactive File on Criminalistics (click on interactive file) – Centre Des Sciences De Montreal

Putting DNA to Work: Catch a Criminal – NAS Science Museum

Interactive Forensic Games – Thinkquest.org


Crime Lab - Science News for Kids


Forensic Downloadable activities – Kids’ Science Challenge

Forensic Science Experiments – Home Science Tools


Special thanks to the following scientists for their help with this project:

Pulse of the Planet Programs: #4646 ““KSC: Forensics - Detective Science”

Mo Lupia

Forensics Investigator

Wallie Howard Jr. Center for Forensic Sciences

Header Image

Name: Dental X-Ray

Credit: Dr. Kam


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