Specialty Spotlight: Science
Sixth graders have been learning about forensics through a simulated crime scene investigation in which gold was stolen from a train. So far, they’ve worked with several different types of forensic evidence, including fingerprints, documents, and soil.
While analyzing each others’, as well as our fictitious suspects’ fingerprints, they learned to identify general and sub-types of fingerprint categories, as well as how to notice and compare unique identifiers such as “islands”, “type lines”, and “deltas.”
To analyze a document, both the handwriting and the paper itself are important. Students learned to match multiple samples of each others’ scripts before moving on to those provided by our suspects. Then they examined the paper samples with microscopes and under UV light and completed the document analysis by finding each paper sample’s density.
In the photo, sixth graders are doing the “wet chemistry” portion of our soil analysis. Here, they mix small amounts of soil taken from the crime scene and from the shoes or homes of each of our suspects with water. Then they test the pH of the water. That same day, they put drops of hydrochloric acid onto the soil samples to look for fizzing, a telltale sign of various compounds that could help link a suspect to the scene of the theft.
Forensics is a fascinating field that gives students a high-interest framework within which to practice basic science mindsets, such as safety, careful observation, and accurate record-keeping, as well as to learn specific skills such as using digital scales, triple beam balances, and microscopes.