As a new school year approaches, Forensics teachers across the world are scrambling to find virtual labs and activities for their Forensic Science classrooms. In my collaborative Facebook group for Forensic Science teachers, the question “How do we virtually teach such a hands-on course?” comes up in conversation on a weekly basis. (If you are a Forensic science teacher that is looking to collaborate with other FS teachers, we invite you to join us. Click HERE to join the group!) It is for that reason that I decided to put together a resource for all of my Forensics teacher friends– 20 Virtual Labs & Activities for Forensic Science. Let’s get started!
#1: Virtual Microscope Lab
First up in my list of 20 Virtual Labs & Activities for Forensic Science is a virtual microscope lab. One of the first concepts that I teach in Forensics is the microscope. This interactive site features a virtual step-by-step guide to viewing a specimen under the microscope. After having my students visit the interactive site, I have them complete the virtual microscope lab. This year, I will be having my students complete this digital document as they maneuver through the two labs.
#2: Observation Skills & Crime Scene Investigation Interactivity
In this interactivity, students make observations from the dioramas of true crime scenes known as The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. These dioramas were constructed in the 1940s by Frances Glessner Lee as a way to teach crime scene investigators how to properly investigate crime scenes. To introduce observation skills and crime scene investigation, I have my forensics students complete this web-quest and interactivity over Lee’s Nutshell Studies. This interactive tour and web-quest will provide your students with practice in making observations and inferences and really sets the foundation for the rest of the course.
#3: Disease Detectives (Deductive Reasoning) Digital Lesson
This next lesson is extremely applicable to what we are experiencing in the world with regards to Covid-19 and can be used to bridge epidemiology with detective work and deductive reasoning skills. This lesson uses a real-life case to demonstrate how epidemiologists and other public health workers respond when there is a suspected outbreak—or sudden increase in the number of cases—of a disease. It shows the importance in using scientific evidence to derive a conclusion. The entire lesson and supporting documents can be found here.
#4: Virtual Crime Scene
One of my favorite parts of teaching forensics is creating mock crime scenes for my students. Although this year’s crime scenes may look a little different, there is no reason why we can’t still offer our students digital mock crime scenes that allow them to showcase their skills. In this digital crime scene, students will make observations, collect evidence, and use their deductive reasoning skills to solve the crime. Here is the the supporting document that I created for my students.
#5: Virtual Crime Lab Tour
This Youtube video is a great way to show students what goes on inside of a real-life crime lab. I plan on having my students watch this tour and answer the following questions:
1. List six sections of the lab or types of criminalists described in the tour.
2. Describe three types of evidence and how they are examined or tested in two sections on the tour.
3. List 4 types of equipment used in the lab and describe their use.
4. List 3 types of databases and their application discussed during the tour
#6: Fingerprint Case Study-Digital Assignment
My students always love discussing the Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) case and I knew that I wanted to incorporate it into my virtual classroom this fall when we discuss fingerprinting. With the help of one of my Forensics Teachers Facebook Group members, I have a digital case study ready to go. Click here to grab the digital assignment.
#7: Fire Lab- Virtual Arson Investigation
Next up in my list of 20 Virtual Labs & Activities for Forensic Science is one of my favorites- an interactive site that walks students through the science behind how fires burn. Then, they are able to gather evidence from a virtual arson investigation and analyze their collections to solve the crime. This entire virtual activity can serve as both the lesson and the practice, making it great for online or flipped classrooms. Check out the website here.
#8: Arson Investigation Podcast
I love a good podcast and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is appropriate for both the middle and high school classroom and takes students through a 13- episode journey through the events surrounding an arson investigation. Don’t worry about creating a supporting document for this podcast! I’ve got you covered. Click HERE to get the resource that I use with my own students as we listen to this intriguing podcast mystery.
#9: Forensic Toxicology-WebQuest & Lab
My students always enjoyed this activity when we were face-face for instruction. Therefore, I am definitely adding it to my virtual lessons when we get to our toxicology unit. This interactive website showcases the life of a forensic toxicologist and has students solve a crime using lab tests and data analysis. There is a great supporting document that compliments this activity (thanks again to another wonderful Forensic Teacher Tribe Facebook Group member).
#10: Virtual Autopsy
We are half-way through our list of 20 Virtual Labs & Activities for Forensic Science and I can’t wait to share the next resources!
I have used this virtual autopsy as practice for my infamous PIG AUTOPSY project for several years. However, this past year, I wasn’t able to conduct the anticipated pig autopsy with my students (cue the tears). As a replacement, I did assign this virtual autopsy activity. Although it didn’t bring the same WOW factor as the pig autopsy, it was a good virtual replacement when I needed it.
#11: DNA Fingerprinting Virtual Lab
In this DNA Fingerprinting virtual lab, students get a first hand experience creating a DNA profile using electrophoresis. I have used this online lab for years and will definitely be adding it to my virtual lessons this year!
#12: Entomology Digital Investigation
This digital entomology investigation was created by one of our Forensic Facebook Group members. In this activity, students examine insects found at a crime scene to estimate the post mortem interval of a victim whose body is found in a wooded area.
#13: Online Ballistics Simulation
I just recently happened upon this ballistics simulation and I have mixed emotions about it. The idea of it is great and if you need a digital ballistics activity, this is a good option (if you can get past the typos and a few glitches here and there). This simulation begins with an informative page and has students take a pre-test before moving in to a mock crime scene. Once presented with the scene, students collect and analyze ballistic evidence to solve the case.
#14: Blood Typing Virtual Lab
Coming in at #14 in our list of 20 Virtual Labs & Activities for Forensic Science is a blood typing lab simulation. In this blood typing online lab simulation, a doctor has a patient that needs a blood transfusion and there are three potential donors . Students use their knowledge of blood types to determine which donor can donate blood to the doctor’s patient. One of our FB group members created a complimentary resource that can be found HERE.
#15: Gel Electrophoresis Interactive Activity
Gel electrophoresis labs can be costly! If you’re on a shoe-string budget, consider assigning this electrophoresis interactive activity to your students.
#16: Glass Analysis- Interactive (for Google Classroom)
One of the sweet members of our Facebook group, Forensic Science Teacher Tribe, shared this next resource with our members. This Google Slides activity is perfect for those teachers that are using Google Classroom this year. This activity walks students through the process of glass analysis and provides students with instruction, but in an interactive way. You can check out the resource here.
#17: Decomposition & Entomology Virtual Lab
One of my favorite activities to use in my Entomology Unit is my Maggot Man lab! Although my students are often hesitant of it, they love it. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to observe the decomposition process as it pertains to blow-fly activity in a virtual setting, so I was happy to find this alternative to one of my students’ favorite labs.
This HHMI web-based activity uses video and an online portal to walk students through the stages of decomp and insect activity. The online activity can be found here, teacher instructions can be found here, and the supporting document for this activity can be found here.
#18: Drug Interactions-Online Simulation
I have used the Mouse Party online simulation for many years during my toxicology unit. This interactive activity from the University of Utah provides students with the opportunity to digitally investigate how different kinds of drugs alter the natural state of a mouse’s brain. To find supporting documents for this online simulation, click here.
#19: Handwriting- Digital Investigation
In this digital Handwriting Investigation, students take on the role of a QD examiner to determine if a document has been forged. This activity would be great to use both digitally and in face-to-face instruction for a quick and easy practice for handwriting analysis.
#20: Digital Mock Crime Scene
Last up on my list of 20 Virtual Labs and Activities for Forensic Science is this Digital Mock Crime Scene- The Case of the Barefoot Burglar. If you ask any of my previous Forensics students what their favorite part of the class was, they will tell you THE MOCK CRIME SCENES. With social distancing guidelines in place, it is making it difficult for in-person teachers to conduct mock crime scenes. Additionally, online teachers are wondering how mock crime scenes can be done online. I am excited to have found this digital option to offer my students. Check it out here.
Well…that’s it! I hope that you have found this post to be super-helpful in easing your mind about this CRAZY school year. I’d love to hear more suggestions from you guys. If you have an online or digital lab that you LOVE, drop a comment below!
Want more digital Forensics resources? Check out the digital options in my TPT store!
As always, HAPPY TEACHING!