The Science of Forensics

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1 The Science of Forensics Stage 3 Purpose and focus Students will learn the basic processes forensic scientists go through when investigating crimes. Notes This unit deals with a great number of ethical issues. Students need to be aware of these issues, especially when dealing with personal identification and personal information. Teachers need to stress the importance of privacy, storage and safe disposal of these items, e.g. Fingerprints Tasks Set up a scenario within the class where an object has been placed on the teacher s desk. Students need to investigate who left it there and why. Brainstorm what information needs to be gathered, (footprints, prints, etc.) List this information. Observing and exploring (asks questions, pose problems, find out what is currently known) Students begin to use methods they have selected to collect evidence to prove who left the object. Exploring avenues that real forensic scientists would use such as examining evidence, taking photos of the crimes scene and making note of important information. The students will then take photos with a digital camera of any clues or evidence they find in the class room and around the school. They will then collect all of the evidence and tag it with numbers. Hypothesising and predicting (define a problem that can be investigated scientifically) Students look at the 'crime scene', and discuss what has happened. The class will piece together the evidence and analyse how the 'suspect' was able to leave the object, e.g. How they entered and exited the room. Students will make a hypothesis, explaining who left the object, how they able to leave the object and why. At this point the students will make a list of all suspects and discuss any 'motives' each suspect may have for leaving the item. Create a motive for each suspect, explaining why each particular suspect would want to steal the object. Devising and testing (describe a procedure for collecting data, identify appropriate equipment to carry out the procedure) K-6 SciTech Page 1 of 10

2 Based on prior knowledge and the previous lessons seen in the sequence note. The class suggests strategies and methods that can be used to prove how the suspect entered and exited the room, how the person is and why the suspect left the item. Collecting and recording (use the procedure and equipment to collect and record data) Using a blackboard or another large surface, students will put information and pieces of evidence together to form a timeline sequence of events. Discuss how this is helpful, and does it provide and incite into who the suspect is. Once students have collected and processed all of the information they will then begin to eliminate suspects. The class should discuss why the suspects can be eliminated. Using the evidence the students will the build a 'case' that explains why the remaining suspect left the object. This will include placing the suspect at the scene, a motive and supporting evidence. Based on the evidence and information they have collected students draw a conclusion and 'accuse' one of the suspects. The students need to back up their accusations with supporting evidence. All of this information should be presented to the accused teacher and someone else in to the school community if possible a Police Detective or the Principal. Students discuss how successful the methods of collecting evidence were and if they could have used more effective investigation methods. Analysing and drawing conclusions (reach a conclusion which is communicated to others) Before beginning this investigation all lessons seen in the Sequence notes should be completed to ensure that students have a good understanding of concepts involved in Forensic Science and the ethics relating to the subject. Prior to starting the investigation invite a number of people associated with the school into your room. They should talk to the class and the teacher. While there they should mention something that will help students with their investigation or provide a clue later, e.g. Mention a new scarf they are wearing or make note of the fact that the teacher always leaves the door open at lunch time. Place an object on a desk, something that is unfamiliar to all students Make note of the object as soon as it is left. Prior to the class entering the room leave various clues around the room and school (if possible) so the students can investigate who left it there. Assessment Items Students look at the 'crime scene', and discuss what has happened. The class will piece together the evidence and analyse how the 'suspect' was able to leave the object, e.g. How they entered and exited the room. Decides the type of data needed and works cooperatively to collect such data. K-6 SciTech Page 2 of 10

3 Create a motive for each suspect, explaining why each particular suspect would want to steal the object. Transforms data to show important relationships, trends, patterns or associations. Using a blackboard or another large surface, students will put information and pieces of evidence together to form a timelined sequence of events. Discuss how this is helpful, and does it provide and incite into who the suspect is. Plans repeat trials of tests or experimental procedures. Students discuss how successful the methods of collecting evidence were and if they could have used more effective investigation methods. Evaluates own learning and discusses where improvements can be made. Notes on Sequence The following is a series of lessons that need to be completed prior to the commencement of the investigation. These lessons are designed to give students a basic understanding of the methods used in Forensic Science and some of the basic terminology used in this area. Teachers need to ensure that ethical issues associated with these lessons are addressed, as some students may not be aware of the repercussions of personal information being made public. During these lessons the teacher should attempt to use the terminology used in Forensic Science (e.g. Suspect, Evidence etc.) to ensure students understand their meanings. Lesson 1. Fingerprinting Children to record their own prints on Finger Print Chart. This can be done by Rubbing an area on a piece of paper with a lead pencil. The student's then rub their s over the lead on the paper. Apply a small piece of sticky tape to the, lift and stick the tape onto another sheet of paper (or Fingerprint Chart).They can also place their s on an ink pad and then stamp the directly onto the chart. Discuss with class the lines they can see on their prints. Pose the question, has anyone in the class got identical prints? Students then investigate the prints of other students in the class. Based on the information they have gained the students will make an inference about prints to answer the question. The teacher will then read Fingerprint Background Information with the students. The class should then discuss how prints can be used to help solve crimes and how they should be correctly stored to ensure that they are only accessed by the appropriate people. Lesson 2. Shoe Prints With class discuss what shoes prints are and how they are obtained. Then investigate how specific features of a shoe print can be used to identify and obtain information. For the following activities the class will need some old shoes. Have students paint the bottom of the shoe with paint. Make shoe prints onto paper. Next have the students put shoe on and step onto paper. With student's list the features of a footless shoe print. Then identify features on the worn shoe. Label identifying features of the worn shoe such as; places where the shoe did not touch the paper or wear to the K-6 SciTech Page 3 of 10

4 shoes sole. Discuss how this kind of identifying information would be useful. Print the sole of a variety of shoes. Play a matching game. Students match the shoe imprint with the stamp of the shoe. For the second activity, place shoes into a sand tray, leaving an indent. Fill the indent with Plaster of Paris and allow it time to dry. Discuss with the students the importance of shoe prints when investigating crimes. Get students to test which surfaces are the best for obtaining shoes prints. Lesson 3. Handwriting Begin lesson by reading Handwriting Background Information with class. The teacher will have written a false absence note on the board, at this time the students will write what is on the board. The teacher will ask at least 4 students (depending on class numbers) to write the note twice. The teacher will collect all writing samples, the students will be given a series of work samples and break off into groups. The students will look at the samples and make a note of any similarities between the samples. The group will use a handwriting analysis sheet to record their information and decide which samples were written by the same person and report their findings back to the class, including where they found the similarities in the writing samples. Lesson 4. Culminating Activity The final activity requires the teacher to, set up a scenario within the class where an object has been placed on the teacher s desk. Students need to investigate who left it there, how it was put it there and why. Brainstorm what information needs to be gathered, (footprints, prints, etc.). Students will use prior knowledge to investigate and then based on the evidence and information they have gathered, draw a conclusion as to the identity of the person. Syllabus Links Science and Technology Learning process outcomes and big ideas Investigating Strand INV S3.7 Conducts their own investigations and makes judgements based on the results of observing, questioning, planning, predicting, testing, collecting, recording and analysing data, and drawing conclusions. Constructs appropriate self-questions to guide investigations. Decides the type of data needed and works cooperatively to collect such data. Plans repeat trials of tests or experimental procedures. Identifies factors that are to be kept the same when carrying out tests or conducting investigations, and recognises the term controlled experiment. Records data in an appropriate form and evaluates collected data to ensure that it satisfies the purpose of an investigation. Transforms data to show important relationships, trends, patterns or K-6 SciTech Page 4 of 10

5 associations. Uses the ideas of fair testing to evaluate whether predictions or explanations are reliable and valid. Communicates what has been learned by choosing from a variety of media, tools and forms, taking into account audience and purpose. Using Technology Strand UT S3.9 Evaluates, selects and uses a range of equipment, computer-based technology, materials and other resources to meet the requirements and constraints of investigation and design tasks. Content strand outcomes and big ideas Information and Communications Strand IC S3.2 Creates and evaluates information products and processes, demonstrating consideration of the type of media, form, audience and ethical issues. Complex systems are developed to transfer information and support communication. Information technology has changed over time and will continue to change in the future. People communicate in different ways using different technology. People select and manipulate information to create messages and perceptions. Information products can be assessed for bias, validity and cultural appropriateness. Systems can be used to organise, transfer, manipulate and store information Links to other learning areas English: Descriptive text Mathematics: Space & Measurement HSIE: Identity & Values PDHPE: Who am I? Growing up. Computers: Creating tables Word processing Internet skills K-6 SciTech Page 5 of 10

6 Resources Online Equipment: Copy of the Fingerprint Background Information (with this unit) adapted from Ink Pads Fingerprint Chart adapted from Old Shoes Black paint A3 Paper Plaster of Paris Sand, Soil and other various combinations of Earth Metallic or Plastic box Copy of Handwriting Background Information (with this unit) adapted from Lined paper for handwriting samples Copy of Handwriting Analysis Sheet (with this unit) adapted from Other people/places Excursion to the Police and Justice Museum, Sydney. If possible a Police Detective for final lesson. K-6 SciTech Page 6 of 10

7 Appendix 1 FINGERPRINT CHART Left thumb Student 1 Student 2 Student 3 Student 4 Student 5 Left pointer Left middle Left ring Left little Right thumb Right pointer Right middle Right ring Right little K-6 SciTech Page 7 of 10

8 Appendix 2 Handwriting Analysis. Classify each suspect s handwriting in the chart below. Slant Size of Letters Distinct formations Spacing of letters Spacing of words Handwriting Sample Suspect 1 Suspect 2 Suspect 3 Suspect 4 Suspect 5 Suspect 6 Suspect 7 Suspect 8 Suspect 9 Suspect 10 K-6 SciTech Page 8 of 10

9 Appendix 3 Fingerprinting Background Almost every time you touch something, you leave a print. Our hands are covered with sweat pores. Sweat is often mixed with other body oils and dirt and when you touch something with your s, the oils and dirt on your skin stick to the surface of the object leaving an imprint of your tips. Prints that you can see with the naked eye are called visible prints. Invisible prints are called latent prints. Most prints are latent prints. A third type of print is a plastic print. It is a print that leaves an impression on objects such as soap or clay. A forensic scientist is interested in prints as a means of identification to help solve crimes. Fingerprints have been used as a means of identification for centuries. In ancient Babylon, prints were used on clay tablets for business transactions and in ancient China, thumb prints have been found on clay seals. Fingerprints were first used in the United States by the New York Prison system in The first criminal conviction based on print evidence was the case of Thomas Jennings who was charged with the murder of Charles Hiller, while committing a burglary in Fingerprints offer an infallible means of personal identification. The outer layer of skin on our s is made up of a series of ridges. The ridges on each person's s are unique. Other personal characteristics change - prints do not. The F.B.I. has a collection of prints that numbers in the millions. Investigators often compare prints from a crime scene to the prints in the F.B.I. print bank to see if they can find a match and thus know who committed the crime. They often print suspects to see if their prints match those found at the crime scene. There are three basic types of prints - the arch, the whorl and the loop. K-6 SciTech Page 9 of 10

10 Arch patterns have lines that start at one side of the print and then rise toward the centre of the print and leave on the other side of the print. Whorl patterns have a lot of circles that do not leave either side of the print. Loop patterns have lines that start on one side of the print and then rise toward the centre of the print and leave on the same side of the print they start on. K-6 SciTech Page 10 of 10

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