Forensic Chemistry

Since forensics is a high interest subject, I generally saved this unit for the end of the year when students are beginning to get restless. CourtTV’s Forensics in the Classroom activities require many chemicals that should be ordered well in advance.


  • trueTV has a multitude of resources. You can begin by taping an episode or two of “Forensic Files” to show how actual forensic scientists solve cases and have students fill out this worksheet (doc) as they watch the program. Check out their forensic lab.
  • After reading “Crime Scene Processing” on the Forensic Science Web Page, students can do the “Crime Scene Processing” (doc) worksheet.
  • On this Forensic Science Web Page, “Firearms and Toolmark Identification” is discussed and can be followed up with the “Firearms and Toolmark Identification” (doc) worksheet.
  • “Forensic Science Activities” (doc) could be used with middle school students.
  • Have students do this “Forensic Science” (doc) crossword puzzle.
  • Or try this “Forensic Science” (doc) wordsearch puzzle with answers (doc).
  • The NOVA activity, “Hunt for the Serial Arsonist,” students use the “At Your Fingertips” (pdf) handout to determine which fingertip pattern is the dominant one in the class. They compare their results to the genereal population.
  • Have students watch the NOVA program “Vanished” and fill out the evidence chart in the “What Happened to Stardust?” classroom activity.(pdf)
  • And my favorite–have students use stoichiometry to solve a murder mystery in ChemCollective’s program, “Mixed Reception.” The program is free and can be run from a CD. With my class, it took 2 1/2 blocks in our computer lab. Since our lab doesn’t have speakers for every computer, I showed all the videos to the whole group using a projector like the Boxlight.
  • David Katz provided these forensic labs: “Fingerprinting” (pdf), “Fiber Analysis” (pdf), “Handwriting Analysis” (pdf), and “Ink Analysis” (pdf).


  • Who Dunnit?” is a middle school forensic mystery that uses fingerprinting, a white powders lab, correlation of foot size to height, and do teeth impressions to identify the culprit.
  • trueTV’s Forensics in the Classroom unit 1, “The Celebration” (pdf), has students do a gunshot residue test and bullet type determination. I had students do this student worksheet (doc) after reading the mystery synopsis and about the suspects. This (doc) was my lesson plan for the week.
  • trueTV’s Forensics in the Classroom unit 3,”Renters Beware” (pdf), has students do a Kastle-Meyer test for blood, a flame test, and a fingerprint identification activity. I had students do this student worksheet (doc) after reading the mystery synopsis and about the suspects. This (doc) was my lesson plan for the week. As you can see from the similarity to “The Celebration” lesson, I used these in two separate years.
  • NOVA’s “The Viking Deception” (pdf) lab has students extract colors from onions and berries.
  • The “Case of the Christmas Cookie Mystery” (pdf) is white powders lab with a holiday twist and includes teacher directions (pdf).
  • Try this Schenley High School “Forensic Science in High School Chemistry” (pdf) unit of study.
  • “Molarity Lab: Murder Investigation” (doc) is a take-off on the ClueTM game that was contributed by Sam Falk of Arlington High School, NY.


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