• Court TV’s “The Backpack Mystery” (pdf) is aimed at middle school students.
  • Canada’s “Virtual Museum” has another simple online mystery.
  • Mystery of the Stolen Artifacts” presents, along with other evidence, a DNA profile to help students solve the case.
  • Students use a virtual lab to create a DNA fingerprint in NOVA’s It Takes a Licken” mystery. See the activity below that goes with this.
  • Watch “A Link for the Missing – DNA ‘Fingerprinting’” from the Secrets of the Sequence series and complete student handout, “Create a DNA Fingerprint” (doc). Besides questions from the video, students do the NOVA activity, “Create a DNA Fingerprint.
  • Anastasia—Dead or Alive” is a NOVA classroom activity that uses the shape of an ear to determine if Anna Anderson is an Anastasia impersonator.
  • In “Who Ate the Cheese?” students simulate electrophoresis and DNA fingerprinting to solve the mystery.
  • Have students watch the NOVA video “The Boldest Hoax” (pdf) about the Piltdown hoax and have them do the accompanying activity. Using the student handout (pdf), student teams will determine whether Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, or Martin Hinton perpetuated the hoax.
  • 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 general population.
  • In the “Last Flight of Bomber 31” NOVA activity, the objective is to identify which members of a family share the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). An anthropologist has found a few human bones at a site in South Africa. Investigators think they might belong to a Nobel Prize-winning dung beetle biologist who disappeared in Africa. Since the bones have been exposed to severe weather for many years, the only DNA that may be salvageable is mtDNA. Students use the pedigree chart in the “The Hunt for mtDNA” (pdf) handout to determine which family members of the missing biologist are eligible to donate mtDNA for comparison.
  • NOVA’s “Wanted — Butch and Sundance” activity gives students an opportunity to think like forensic anthropologists. Student’s use the “Identifying the Skeletons” handout to determine if bones found belong to missing explorers.
  • Play trueTV’s online games that include “The Fingerprint Game” along with others.
  • Try this “Forensic Science” (doc) wordsearch puzzle with answers (doc).
  • Have students do this “Forensic Science” (doc) crossword puzzle.
  • Bones and the Badge” is a WebQuest activity that presents 6 different cases and their evidence for students to solve the crime. Each student group could be assigned a different case, but at least one computer connected to the internet for each group would be a necessity unless the teacher printed out each scenario. These are the teacher pages.
  • Try this middle school activity, “Winter Wonderland: Who Thawed Frosty?” with worksheet (doc) and scoring rubric (doc).
  • Measurable You” introduces the Bertillonage, an anthropometric measurement system developed to identify and track people in the penal system in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes a “Bertillonage Measurement diagram” (pdf) and a student “Anthropometric Measurements” sheet (pdf)
  • This “Entomology in Action” activity introduces students to the blow fly’s life cycle and the accumulated degree hour (ADH) used by forensic entomologists for estimating the time of death. All the materials needed for the activity are included in PDF form.
  • In “DNA–a Molecular Identity” students learn about what DNA is and several different DNA typing techniques. In Lesson 2, students examine three different situations where DNA typing was used to carry out justice. Students also identify and evaluate different uses of DNA typing techniques and its possible benefits and misuses. Again, all materials needed are in the PDF format.
  • If you live close to NYC, take your students on a field trip to Discovery Times Square for CSI The Experience. It opens October 1, 2011 and goes through March 4, 2012.


  • In the “FORENSICS: Murder at the Toy Store” mystery, students use a microscope to observe trace evidence, extract DNA, create shoe transfer patterns, and examine online evidence to determine “Who dunnit.”
  • In trueTV’s Forensics In the Classroom “The Cafeteria Caper,” (pdf) students do an indicator enzyme test, hair analysis, and blood, chromosome, and DNA analysis to solve the crime. 
    • As an introduction to the unit, I had students:
      • read about “Hair Evidence” (doc) and do the accompanying worksheet (doc). Maria Ferraro added fiber evidence to this worksheet (doc).
      • read about “Forensic Serology” (doc) and do the accompanying worksheet (doc).
      • read about “DNA Evidence” (doc) and do the accopanying worksheet (doc).
    • For “The Cafeteria Caper” I created:
      • a worksheet for the “Mystery Synopsis” (doc).
      • a crossword puzzle (doc) from the “Important Terms” (doc) document. 
      • a wordsearch puzzle (doc) with answers (doc).
      • an improved “Investigative Report” form (xls) (Mirosoft Excel document).
  • 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.
  • In trueTV’s Forensics In the Classroom “It’s Magic,” (pdf) paper chromatograpy, handwriting analysis, and hair analysis are used to solve the crime.
  • To access the “Forensic Metrics” lab, you need to be an NSTA member. It is a middle school activity designed to make learning the metric system more interesting.
  • “Case of the Crown Jewels” (pdf) is a classroom activity that allows students to explore how the unique sequence of bases in DNA can be used to identify individuals. It includes a pre-lab activity, a laboratory preparation guide, extension activities, and a post-lab activity.


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