In the Forensic Lab

Books to Share

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang
Oh No!: Or How my Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett
Science Verse by Jon Scieszka
The Secret of the Circle-K Cave by Anna Jane Hays
The Secret Science Project that almost ate the School by Judy Sierra

Books to Show or Booktalk

The Case of the Barfing Birthday by Michelle Torrey
The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book by Tom Robinson
The Green Dog (Science Solves it series) by Melinda Luke
Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea? by Annie Barrows
The Kids Who Named Pluto: and the Stories of Other Extraordinary Young People in Science by Marc McCutcheon
One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science by Eric Yoder


In the Forensic Lab

Copy the nametag provided at the end of this program. Clipart copyright © 2010 by the University of South Florida, Florida Educational Technology Clearinghouse:


The Elements

“The Elements” by Tom Lehrer song is available on Discovery Education Science Hits, available at You may need to download the free version of RealPlayer in order to play the audio file.

Print out copies of the periodic table of elements. Several formats are available from in the chemistry section at Give each kid a paper clip or another small object. As they listen to the song “The Elements” have them try to move the paper clip from element to element as they hear the name. It will be tough, the song is fast!


Fingerprint Art

A photographic of drawn insects with fingerprints as the body

Photos and artwork by Megan Clark

A photograph of fingerprints being used to create drawings of butterflies and a mouse with balloons

Photos and artwork by Megan Clark

  • Washable ink pads in different colors
  • Markers
  • Paper towels

Create fingerprint art using washable ink pads and markers. Fingerprint Art by Ed Emberley has numerous ideas for creating art with just your fingertips. Another excellent source is the website Fingerprint Fun at

Games and Activities

Case #2 The Artful Criminal

(by Megan Clark)


A valuable manga drawing has been stolen from the library. The criminal left an unidentified white powder at the crime scene. In order to discover the nature of the powder, the kids must perform a number of experiments.

A photograph of a posterboard filled with the crime scene reports available at the end of the chapter

Photo and artwork by Megan Clark

Program Outline
  1. Read aloud the Crime Scene Report at the end of this program. What information have the kids learned?
  2. Have the kids examine the Crime Scene Photos. What clues do they see?
  3. Read theSuspect Report at the end of this program.
  4. Read the Eyewitness Report. Point to the mug shots of each suspect as the report is being read.
  5. Show the kids the Crime Scene Evidence container with the unknown white powder inside. This is the white powder that was collected from the crime scene.
  6. Then show the kids the Evidence #1, Evidence #2, Evidence #3, and Evidence #4 containers. Tell the kids that each evidence container has a white powder that was taken from one of the four suspects. Unfortunately, the labels identifying these powders were accidentally mixed up. Fortunately, by performing a few simple experiments and noting the reactions, the kids can correctly identify each powder.
  7. Hand out to each kid the Chemical Reaction chart and a pencil.
  8. First, perform a water test. Place one spoonful of each of the four powders in four separate disposable cups. Then one at a time, drop a spoonful of water into each cup. Have the kids write down in the chart the reaction they have observed.
  9. Second, perform an iodine test. Place one spoonful of each of the four powders in four separate disposable cups. NOTE: IODINE SHOULD ONLY BE HANDLED BY AN ADULT. As a few drops of iodine are added to each cup, have the kids note any reactions.
  10. Third, perform a vinegar test. Place one spoonful of each of the four powders in four separate disposable cups. As vinegar is added to each cup, have the kids note any reactions.
  11. Then tell the kids that they have been observing chemical reactions. Tell them that baking soda will bubble when vinegar is added, and cornstarch will turn black when it reacts with iodine. Have them then determine which of the powders is baking soda and which is cornstarch.
  12. Then perform a taste test to determine which powder is salt, and which is sugar.
  13. Finally, perform all 3 tests (water, iodine, and vinegar) to the powder in the Crime Scene evidence container. With their knowledge of chemical reactions the kids should now be able to identify the white powder left at the crime scene.
  14. If needed, read the Eyewitness Report again to refresh the kids’ memories on the names of the suspects, as well as which white powder they were in possession of.
  15. After the kids guess, hand them the sealed envelope with the Case Solution.

1.To prepare for this mystery collect or purchase the following items:

  • 5 clear containers
  • Cornstarch
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Iodine and eyedropper
  • 16 disposable cups
  • Plastic spoons
  • Water
  • Empty picture frame (any size)
  1. Print off the Crime Scene Report, the Suspect Report, and the Eyewitness Report from the end of this chapter.
  2. Set up a temporary crime scene. Place an empty frame on a desk or work area. Sprinkle baking soda nearby, enough that the powder will be noticeable on camera. Create evidence markers by folding narrow strips of yellow poster board and writing numbers on them with a black marker.
  3. Take several photos of the crime scene. You may then disassemble the scene. Develop or print the photos and place in an envelope. Print and glue the Crime Scene Photos Label which is available at the end of the chapter.
  4. Create mug shots of your suspects. Use the mug shot background from Photos 8, available at Print out public domain photos of the famous artists Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Rembrandt from Wikipedia, available at
  5. Print out the Evidence labels #1, #2, #3, and #4 and attach to four different clear containers. Put at least 5 spoonfuls of sugar in container #1. Put the same amount of salt in container #2, cornstarch in #3, and baking soda in #4.
  6. Take the fifth clear container and add two spoonfuls of baking soda. Print out the Crime Scene Evidence label and attach to the container.
  7. Create a chemical reactions chart so the kids can note the reaction of all 4 powders to the 3 tests (water, iodine, vinegar).
  8. Print out the Case Solution available at the end of this chapter and seal it in an envelope.

Web-Based Activities

Cyberbee Whodunnit

Kids can examine the crime scene for clues and perform forensic experiments to catch the culprit.

Discovery Kids: Yucky Fun and Games

Discover gross recipes, cool experiments, and interesting games to play at this web site.

Professional Resources

About.Com Chemistry

Printable versions of the Periodic Table of Elements are available at this web site.

Discovery Education Science

Listen to Tom Lehrer’s song “The Elements” at this web site.

Fingerprint Fun

Find an assortment of thumbprint art ideas at this web site.

Photos 8

This web site has a printable mug shot background from the website’s owner Sam Mugraby. Some restrictions apply.


Discover a large amount of public domain photos at this website.

Detective Science by Jim Wiese

This book has practical detective activities for kids.

Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing Book by Ed Emberley

This book is packed full of easy and fun examples of pictures you can make using just your fingertips and different colored inkpads.

In the Forensic Lab Nametag
Download this PDF file of the Forensic Lab Nametag, cut out the image, and use it as a nametag.
Case of the Artful Criminal Crime Scene Report

Download this PDF file of the Artful Criminal Crime Scene Report, cut out the image, and use it for crafts.

Case of the Artful Criminal Eyewitness Report

Download this PDF file of the Artful Criminal Crime Eyewitness Report, cut out the image, and use it for crafts.

Case of the Artful Criminal Evidence Markers

Download this PDF file of the Artful Criminal Evidence Markers, cut out the image, and use it for crafts.

Case of the Artful Criminal Case Solution

Download this PDF file of the Artful Criminal Case Solution, cut out the image, and use it for crafts.

Page last modified: May 17, 2012