Forensic science activities for kids

Written by lane cummings
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Forensic science activities for kids
Forensic scientists collect and assess fingerprints. (fingerprint image by dip from Fotolia.com)

According to the Forensic Science Society of the United Kingdom, forensic science is the utilisation of science in regards to the law. Forensic scientists often recover physical traces that officers or detectives use to pinpoint criminals. Because forensic science has this strong application to criminal cases, it's often of interest to kids. Providing kids with activities in forensic science can enhance their interest in this branch of science.

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Study Your Own Crime Scene

While kids won't be examining a real crime scene, they can practice their skills in collecting evidence, keeping careful records and evaluating evidence in this activity. Tell each kid to go home and pick a room of his house or apartment as his "crime scene." Then he must collect articles of trace "evidence" such as hairs, threads from clothing, bits of soil and chips of paint.

Tell the kids to carefully collect their "evidence" in plastic zippered bags or envelopes and label them carefully. They also should write down any odd things that they notice about the room, such as a scuff mark on a wall or any broken or damaged items.

Have the kids examine their findings under a microscope and form conclusions as to what they are and where they came from. Then ask them to imagine if a crime had been committed in that room and what could have happened.

Dusting for Fingerprints

Before this activity, it's best to review how forensic scientists use fingerprints to help law enforcers solve crimes, and how kids can evaluate a sample set of fingerprints. While some kids may be familiar with the phrase "dusting for fingerprints," few of them probably have ever done it or know what it truly means.

Explain that you can get the best copy of fingerprints when the fingers are slightly oily or greasy. Ask kids to gently dab their hands in butter, giving each fingertip of one hand a very light coating. Have each child press her fingertips around a drinking glass and then remove her fingers carefully, not smudging the glass.

Take a spoonful of cocoa powder and cover the fingerprints with cocoa until they are hidden, then use a delicate brush to dust away the cocoa. Show the kids how to "lift" a fingerprint by pressing the sticky side of a piece of tape to it. Preserve the fingerprints by applying the sticky side of the tape to a piece of construction paper. Kids can now study the fingerprints.

Evaluating Lip Prints

This activity is best if you have a diagram for kids to see the five basic patterns that appear on people's lips when examined closely. These are diamond grooves, short vertical grooves, long vertical grooves, branching grooves and rectangular grooves. Have kids guess how forensic scientists could possibly use lip prints to help solve crimes.

Give each kid a tube of inexpensive, dark lipstick and instruct him to apply it to his top and bottom lips. Give each child a piece of folded white paper and ask him to press his lips to it, making a firm print. Have each child compare his lip print with the diagrams of the most common lip prints in the world and classify it.

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