• Investigating Forensics: Virtual Museum of Canada


    A criminal case has just been opened.  Your task is to help close it. Have your students ever wondered how forensic science works?  They may have seen police and crime lab work on television but what is a real forensic science investigation like? In this tour through the specialized laboratories at the Centre for Forensic […]

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  • Unsolved Crimes Complete Series Is Now Available


    All four case in the Unsolved Crimes series are now available in one download.  Having access to the four cases will provide you with a great deal of flexibility especially if you teach multiple sections of forensics.   Use all four cases in a class  allowing you to only have one or maybe two working groups […]

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  • The Nutshell Studies: Educational Forensic Dioramas

    kitchen (1)

    Created in the 1940s by Frances Glessner Lee, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death were dioramas used to train young police officers in the process of crime scene analysis.  Responding to the complaint from these officers that there were too few crimes for them to analyze, Lee used her hobby of creating dioramas to address […]

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  • Social Influence and Eyewitness Testimony


    In my forensics class I spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the course exploring observational skills and the role that they play in forensic investigation, whether it be on the part of the crime scene investigators looking for evidence at the scene, the detectives working the case or the witnesses who […]

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  • Case Study Investigation (CSI): An Interdisciplinary Class Activity

    CSI 3


    The Case Study Investigation activity provides students with an opportunity to conduct an in depth analysis of a case.  While forensics plays a role in all of the cases to some degree, in some of the cases, forensic analysis was key to arriving at a thorough understanding of the elements of the crime, whereas in other cases the lack of forensic testing, either because it was not done or because it was not available, proved equally significant. The list of cases represents a broad mix in terms of time period when the case took place, the historical/social impact of the case, as well as the nature of the crime of the crime itself. For these reasons and others, this activity tends to provide the class with an interdisciplinary experience, and comments such as “Oh, I remember hearing about this in history class,” are not at all that uncommon.

    A sampling of cases include:

    • Scottsboro Boys
    • Vincent Foster (Clinton Whitehouse)
    • McMartin Preschool Scandal
    • Randy Weaver (Ruby Ridge)
    • Sacco and Venzetti
    • Mary Jo Kopechne (Chappaquiddick)
    • Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping
    • Kurt Cobain (Nivana)

    An additional benefit of the activity is that it provides an opportunity for your students to develop, refine, improve and enhance their presentation and communication skills.  Presentation are 5-10 minutes and I encourage students to be creative in how they present their case.  The majority of students will use Power Point or Prezi, and while many of these presentations will be quite good, some students will take their presentations to the next level.  Examples include:

    • making a video of their case using their parents and/or friends to play different roles
    • presentations of  their case while they are in character
    • presenting their closing argument (either as  the defense or prosecuting attorney) to the jury (class)

    Evaluation of Sources

    On the day of distribution, I normally talk about the requirements for the CSI activity which includes a discussion of how to use Power Point or Prezi as  well as how to identify, assess and determine valid and reliable sources.  Wikipedia is always asked about as a possible source and I tell the students that it’s okay to use it as a place to learn about the case but not as a cited source, however, links to other sources that appear at the end of the Wikipedia entry are fair game, as long as they are deemed to be valid and reliable. Students tend to be pretty adept at searching for information but I do provide them with some possible internet source such as:

    Double-Blind Distribution Procedure* 

    To distribute the cases I  use the following process:

    • Students put their name on a small piece of paper which they fold twice
    • Collect the folded papers
    • Determine how many cases you will need based on the number of students in you class and number the cases
    • Randomly select one of the folded papers and have that student select a number from within the range you’ve determined
    • Provide them with the case name corresponding to the number they chose. I normally provide them with a very general overview of the case which serves as a teaser and triggers their curiosity
    *I do not allow the students to see the list of cases before the drawing.

    When, How and Where Do Presentation Fit Into A Forensics Class?

    I fit the presentation into my class during the ten days to two weeks leading up to the holiday break in December.  The class takes a break from addressing a specific topic and class is devoted to student case presentations. Clearly there is no shortage of ways to integrate these presentation into a course and the you will certainly know what will work best for your classes.

    So Where Can I Get More Information?

    All of the information for the Case Study Investigation activity is available as a free download from my Forensic Files site at Teachers Pay Teachers.

    Files include:

    • Complete List of Cases
    • Student Information
    • Teacher Instructions/Information
    • Sample Evaluation Rubrics
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  • A Lewis & Clark Lesson: Forensic Examination of Artifacts …

    Meriwether Lewis

      Lesson Overview: We know much about the historical journey of Lewis and Clark and have probably even imagined the fears, uncertainties, and dangers that the Corps of Discovery overcame. Only a few years after the journey’s end, however, Meriwether Lewis went from finding himself as one of the most celebrated men in the country […]

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  • Fingerprints Reveal Last Meal and More…


    New fingerprint technology is now able to reveal quite a bit of information including what the person recently ate, their sex and even possible medical conditions.  Check out this article for more information. As I think about using this article in my class next year, I can imagine that it might spark an interesting discussion […]

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  • Dye Analysis Database – Not Just For Forensics


    Check out this article on the development of a database at N. C. State University that will consist of roughly 100,000 samples of dyes, test swatches and documents.  It is anticipated that the database will have value to forensic scientists as well as others including the military and medicine.  

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    I know that this current year is in the process of ending (or has already ended for some) and that you need a break, but when I came across this article I thought that you might find it both interesting as well as useful when you begin your planning for next year.  Starting the year […]

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  • Murder on the Beach – A Sand Lab

    Sand lab cove

    I was reading the article Soil Forensics Expert Digs Deep for Evidence which takes a look at the work of Robert Fitzpatrick, a specialist in the emerging field of soil forensics. Professor Fitzpatrick uses information gained from even the most minute of soil samples to reveal where people and things have been — which is usually where people […]

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