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Sixth-Graders Dig Forensic Science Unit

By Melissa Spainhour

“CSI,” “Bones,” “Forensic Files,” “NCIS” — these are the TV shows that inspire a whole new generation of students to discover the field of forensic science. In sixth-grade science classes led by Mr. McLean and me, students are exposed to this topic in a hands-on, inquiry-based unit that uses the scientific method to solve crimes.

Students acquire knowledge about forensic analysis as they learn how to type blood and recognize spatter, determine height from bones, identify fingerprints and lip prints, use chromatography to test ink components, and classify fibers and hairs under a microscope.  

Organized by daily mysteries, the unit allows students to explore different types of evidence in greater detail and learn how to test the evidence in a forensic lab. As sixth-grader Anna Sonntag said, “I like the forensic unit because it was a different crime in each lab we solved.”  

The unit culminates in a Crime Scene Project in which the students get to experience life as a crime scene investigator, determining "Who did it?" and providing supporting evidence to prove their case. Sixth-grader Jai Gupta had this to say about the unit and project: "I really loved working with all the pieces of evidence and using them to determine who the victim and suspect were. We learned which pieces of evidence were more reliable and which pieces of evidence were ‘red herrings.’ Forensics was purely interesting to me and had a lot of critical thinking and careful analysis. I truly enjoyed working through the forensic unit."  

Forensics excites students’ enthusiasm and brings on a passion for science.

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