This October, treat your students to a spooky mystery or turn your classroom into an immersive crime scene to add some science to your Halloween celebrations.
Forensics offers many experiences for every grade level and discipline that are sure to bring suspense and excitement, such as:
- Grade-appropriate mysteries for younger learners to analyze patterns in fingerprints and crime scene samples
- Examining skeletal remains, performing an autopsy, or identifying blood types for biology
- Ink chromatography, unknown substance testing, and toxicology investigations for chemistry
- Bullet trajectories, bloodstain patterns, and car crash modeling for physics
This article describes a few of the many ways forensics:
- Is easy to integrate into your curriculum for some Halloween flair
- Can be used to customize your already existing lessons to add an engaging thematic hook
Try one of these categories”
- Mysteries for Elementary and Middle School
- Crime Scenes for Biology Classrooms
- Suspenseful Chemistry Investigations
- Exciting Experiments for Physics
- Classroom Customizations for Halloween
Mysteries for Elementary and Middle School
Young learners can join in the Halloween fun with our cross-curricular kits that each focus on a grade-appropriate nonviolent crime while using the same forensic principles found in real-world cases. Tailor the experience for your class by adapting, modifying, or only using parts of the multiple lesson plans as you see fit for your spooky investigations.
Grades 3–6. Who Took Fluffy?® is a whodunit mystery that introduces students to science concepts through Problem-Based Learning (PBL). The activities also are aligned to NGSS*. The problem? Determine who took Fluffy the rabbit, mascot in Ms. Donroe’s classroom. While students work to solve the mystery, they learn concepts that help form the basis for all science learning, such as pattern recognition, cause and effect, and evidence-based conclusions.
Grades 6–8. A mysterious animal skull has been left outside your school with money stuffed inside of it, a shoe print beside it, and other potential trace evidence. Students analyze fingerprint, blood, hair, fiber, imprint, and documentation evidence over the course of about 5 days to determine who placed the skull.
Grades 4–5. A crime has occurred in Mrs. Randall’s classroom—her favorite cookie jar was broken and some of her homemade cookies were eaten! Students become crime scene investigators as they work together examining and analyzing evidence to solve the mystery of the broken cookie jar.
Crime Scenes for Biology Classrooms
Surprise your biology students this Halloween with a set of unknown skeletal remains to identify or a pig to perform a forensic autopsy upon. To add some narrative and intrigue, also consider teaching blood typing with our Diablo Highway: Blood Typing Lab, which has students collect evidence based on a true-life double murder in Southwest Texas.
How much can you learn about individuals by simply examining their bones? That’s what students find out as they become forensic detectives in a local missing person case. This forensics education kit comes with a set of 3 plastic bones recently unearthed from a field near a school. Students use skeletal characteristics to determine as much information as possible about the person, including race, gender, and height.
Students conduct a pig dissection by modeling the protocols used by a pathologist for a human autopsy. They carefully record the external features and use a typical “Y” incision to open the body cavity for a detailed examination. Then they remove all the organ systems. When students complete the forensic dissection, they return the organs to the body cavity and suture the incisions.
Based on a true-life double murder, the Diablo Highway Blood Typing Kit has students learn how to identify blood type through the chemical interaction of antisera with control blood samples and blood evidence in this lab. They also learn how to use a microscope and their unaided eyes to identify a chemical reaction.
Suspenseful Chemistry Investigations
Add suspense and intrigue to your October chemistry classroom by having students use chemistry just like forensic scientists do. The Mystery of Lyle and Louise: Questioned Documents Kit challenges students to use thin layer chromatography to determine the origin of questionable receipts discovered during the investigation of a murder in a rural Appalachian town. To introduce qualitative analysis this Halloween, consider treating your students to unknown substances from a crime scene to identify or to a Drugs and Poisons Analysis Kit to recreate how cases are solved—just like in their favorite shows!
During the investigation of the Mondelo murder, police turn their suspicion on business partner John Wayne Gretsky, finding questionable receipts on his desk. Your students must determine if these receipts are legitimate business documents or evidence of a crime. To do this, students analyze handwriting and use thin-layer chromatography to create an ink profile for each sample taken from the receipt and determine if the same ink was used to fill out the entire form to develop a complete theory of the suspected forgery.
Forensic investigators collect samples of substances they cannot identify on site and send them to the forensic laboratory for analysis. In this activity, your students become forensic investigators as they use their observational skills, senses, and chemical tests on a series of known substances as well as 2 unknown substances. Then they attempt to identify the unknowns based upon their observations and recorded data.
With the Kemtec® Drugs and Poisons Analysis Kit, students go hands-on in the toxicology lab to uncover what occurred with a simulated incident of poisoning. This kit introduces students to qualitative analysis with 5 experiments including identifying over-the-counter drugs, identification of simulated controlled substances, presumptive testing for cocaine, determination of poisoning through amino acids in simulated urine, and analysis of unknowns from a crime scene.
Exciting Experiments for Physics
Capture your physics students’ attention by using bullet trajectories to teach energy or having them create unique bloodstains to analyze forces and motion.
Looking for a kinematic case to solve? Our Carolina Beyond the Tape: Crash in the Night Physics Kit has physics students jump into the role of forensic scientists to solve a fictional car crash by using a car crash model with weights to recreate the crime scene.
Students learn and apply techniques used by crime scene technicians to explore the science of bullet trajectories and shooting reconstruction. Students calculate angle of incidence from a bullet hole, measure angle of incidence from a trajectory, distinguish entry versus exit holes based on bullet wipe, identify shooter height and location, and photograph scene for photographic documentation of evidence.
Make an impact by showing your students how to interpret bloodstain patterns. Students identify bloodstain patterns, photograph bloodstain patterns, document evidence collection, use trigonometry to determine the angle of incidence, and determine the point of origin for a blood pattern.
A local power company’s sign lies damaged, and the police need your help to put together the pieces and identify the potential culprit. Physics students jump into the role of forensic scientists as they work to solve this fictional crime involving a car crash. Students process evidence from the crime scene and integrate concepts—such as data analysis and scientific writing—to help build a compelling case by recreating the case with a car crash model, along with vehicle weight analysis. This kit compellingly brings forensic science into your physics classroom.
Classroom Customizations for Halloween
Looking to add some Halloween spirit to your already existing lesson plans? Consider turning your classroom into a crime scene with our Crime Scene Documentation Kit and modify your lab stations into evidence collection stations. Fingerprinting is another great way to add some mystery to your classroom. With the Latent Print Development with Powders Kit, students can discover, lift, and compare fingerprints to try to solve your custom case. Lastly, students can be presented with hair and fiber evidence from a mock murder mystery and challenged to uncover from known slide samples and suspect testimony who is the culprit with our Microscopic Forensics Kit.
What is the first step in solving a crime and identifying the perpetrator? Proper documentation of the crime scene. Show your class the importance of gathering as much information as possible about the crime scene while preserving the evidence. Students work in teams as crime scene investigators to reconstruct crime scenes—locating, sketching, and photographing all the evidence, then reconstructing another team’s crime scene using data collected by the other team.
Give your students a real-life forensics experience as they discover the science of fingerprint development with powders. Students develop latent prints using black and fluorescent magnetic powders, observe prints using an alternate light source, lift prints using hinge lifters, and analyze and compare their lifted prints.
Students go through forensic “training” by observing labeled slides of materials typically found by forensic investigators at a crime scene, including hair, blood, and textiles. After studying the known slides, students are presented with a mock murder mystery and “evidence” found at the crime scene. Students then examine the evidence, compare it to the testimonies of the suspects, and pinpoint the culprit.
If you’d rather concoct your own mystery, check out these spooky Halloween supplies to bewitch your students . . .
Additional Halloween Ideas
CarolinaÂ® Synthetic Blood has several advantages over other suppliers’ products, which usually depend on chemical reactions producing insoluble salts that precipitate from solutions. These products do not give visually realistic results. In actual blood typing, red blood cells form clumps (the agglutination reaction) that separate from the blood plasma. When mixed the appropriate synthetic antiserum, CarolinaÂ® Synthetic Blood forms clumps in the same way, for a realistic blood typing result. It’s the closest to authentic blood typing that you can get without using real blood.Keep reading
Abstract Thinking about incorporating forensic science into your classroom? Expose your students to the fascinating world of forensics by using real-world techniques practiced by law enforcement agencies. Keep your students captivated by analyzing and documenting evidence to recreate a crime scene.Keep reading
Blood is among the basic types of physical evidence often encountered at a crime scene. Investigators use blood evidence to identify individuals by both blood type and DNA. By observing and analyzing patterns formed by blood at a scene, they can restage the location, movement, and actions of the crime. Like other physical evidence, blood…Keep reading
Background Three types of fingerprints can be found at a crime scene–plastic, visible, and latent. Plastic impressions are fingerprints left in soft materials such as butter, soap, and putty. Visible prints are prints made when fingers are covered in a substance like blood, dirt, or paint, which leaves a mark on a surface. Latent prints are not visible to the human…Keep reading