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Crime Scene Investigation Activities for Kids

September 05, 2018

Crime Scene Investigation Activities for Kids

For the budding detective in your house, these activities and more will introduce your child to the study of forensic science.

Rice University has an excellent website called CSI: The Experience, Web Adventures. This educational and fun game starts with Case One: Rookie Training and allows your child to learn CSI skills as they progress to more advanced cases. Kids will virtually interact with CSI agents and lab equipment. They’ll also be able to make decisions about the cases using forensic techniques they have learned. The site also offers information for parents and teachers as well as lots of other CSI activities.

 Strawberry DNA

Kids extract real DNA from fruit in this activity, simulating what it would be like to work with DNA in a crime lab.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • 1 strawberry (or kiwi fruit or banana)
  • 1 Ziploc sandwich bag
  • 2 9oz. plastic cups
  • Cold 70%-100% isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 pipette
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Salt
  • Water and Pitcher
  • Toothpicks
  • 1 magnifying glass
  • Paper towels
  • Wax Paper

Procedure:

  • Remove the leaves from the strawberry and place the strawberry in the Ziploc bag. Add a drop of liquid dish soap and a pinch of salt to the baggie. Use a pipette to add 3-4 ml of water to the baggie.
  • Seal the baggie and have your child smash the strawberry using his/her fingers. Make sure they don’t poke a hole in the baggie! Set aside.
  • Wet a paper towel and have the child place the wet paper towel over the mouth of the plastic cup. Open the baggie and pour the strawberry mixture onto the paper towel. The paper towel acts as a strainer. Let the mixture drain for a few minutes then discard the paper towel.
  • Using the pipette, have the child carefully pipe the cold isopropyl alcohol down the sides of the inside of the cup. This will allow a thin layer of alcohol to collect on top of the mixture. DON’T STIR!
  • After a few minutes a blob of white material will collect between the layers. This is real DNA. Have the campers remove the DNA using toothpicks. Place the DNA on squares of wax paper for examination.
  • Use the magnifying glass for closer inspection.

The Science Involved

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is found in the chromosomes of all living things. Each person has unique DNA. DNA stays recognizable in a cell even after the cell dies. DNA analysis has changed forensics dramatically. We can now determine if a tissue sample, blood sample, hair fiber, etc…came from a certain individual with 99% accuracy.

 Traces and Marks Demonstration

Most criminals take precautions to avoid detection.  They may wear gloves, so they don’t leave fingerprints, and hats to avoid shedding hairs. But the shoes criminals wear, the tools they use, and their getaway vehicles can leave distinctive marks at the crime scene. Footprint impressions occur whenmaterial such as soil, takes on the form of a shoe or a bare foot through direct physical contact. Footprint impressions can be used in court as evidence. These impressions can tell an investigator basic information such as, what size shoe the person wore. The footprint can also provide other information such as how fast the person was traveling or how much the person weighed.  To preserve and examine footprints, a casting is often made. Your child will have fun making a cast of his/her shoe just like a professional CSI.

 Materials You’ll Need:

  • Sneakers with tread
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Aluminum Pan
  • Bowl for mixing
  • Spoons
  • Soft soil collected from outside
  • Brush
  • Magnifying lens
  • Goggles
  • Gloves

 Procedure:

  • Fill the aluminum pan with loose soil. Have your child step in the soil and make a footprint. Best to do this outdoors!
  • Mix the Plaster of Paris with the water according to the instructions and pour over the shoe print. Let the plaster dry for an hour. (Make sure your child is wearing goggles and gloves to work with the Plaster of Paris.)
  • After the hour, remove the cast and bring indoors. Let the cast harden overnight on a piece of newspaper.
  • The next day, have your child brush off loose soil and look at the cast using a magnifying lens. Have your child identify any unique marks. Can they tell how old the shoes might be? (Sneaker treads level off and become shallower over time.)
  • Using Plaster of Paris, have your child make casts of other imprints like bicycle tire tracks.

 Forensic Anthropology Activity

 Club SciKidz offers a CSI Summer Camp, and this quick activity is always a favorite with the campers. This activity requires some adult participation!

 Materials You’ll Need:

  • Pencil
  • Measuring Tape
  • Calculator
  • Piece of paper
  • Three adults

 Procedure:

  • Have your child write the adults name on the piece of paper. Ask the adults to take off their left shoes.
  • Measure their left feet and write the number down next to the adult’s name.
  • Multiple each length by 7 and record the results. That calculation should approximate the adult’s height.

 How does it work?

  Forensic Anthropologists are experts in identifying skeletal remains. Your child used a live person to calculate height; a forensic anthropologist uses the same math, but only has the bones of the feet to work with. The length of a grown person’s foot is about 15% of their height. Were your child’s results accurate? Skeletal remains can tell a forensic anthropologist a lot about a victim. The size of the pelvis determines gender and broken or shattered bones could indicate a violent crime. If the collarbone isn’t fully developed, then the victim was less than 28 years old. The shape of a skull can tell experts about the ethnicity of the person, and dental records can be traced when teeth are found.

 Building a Crime Scene Diorama

Part forensic science, part art project; this activity will allow your child to learn about Crime Scene Investigation in a hands on, creative manner. Take a look at this video about Francis Glessner Lee, considered the mother of forensic science, and her Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. 

After watching the video have your child build their own diorama with household objects. Using a shoe box or other cardboard box, your child can use his or her imagination to create a detailed crime scene. Your child can use modeling clay to mold a victim and make household objects. Or maybe you have some dollhouse furniture he/she could use. Have your child decorate the room down to the smallest detail. Then fill the room with “evidence”. Remember these Nutshell Studies aren’t about solving a crime, but rather a tool for investigating a crime scene. Have your child ask family and friends to observe the diorama and write down all evidence they can spot. Have your child show them anything they may have missed!

 For more CSI activities and experiments, check out our Club SciKidz lab box, Crime Scene Investigation: The World of Forensic Science. Available on this website.

 

 




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