We had pretty much finished all the ‘interesting’ labs in the ACS Middle School Chemistry curriculum so I dug out a forensic science kit that a friend had purchased for us a year or so ago. Its one of many kits in the The Mystery of Lyle and Louise, a hands-on forensic science curriculum. Its made for high school students but the kit I have is for bite impressions, Lyle and Louise Bad Impression Bite Marks Analysis Kit, and the kids just had to measure a few distances to compare bites so it was ok for middle school. We actually did this in two classes. During the first class I showed them a slide show I found on the internet about forensic odontology (using teeth/bite marks in forensics) and then everyone made a bite impression in a piece of wax and learned how and where to measure on the bite impressions.
For the second class I read them the story of the mystery of Lyle and Louise which involves a car wreck, a murder scene, a drug bust and various other bits. There is a slideshow you can find on the internet premade for this. I made sure to tell the kids this was a made up story and got the ok from parents before showing the slideshow – all the crime scenes are drawn images so its not graphic or anything. Each kit you can buy tests different evidence for the same story, so to figure out what happened to the victims you have to do a lot of the kits if not all of them. The bite mark analysis that we did in class was just to see if one suspect was lying about the bite mark on his arm – did he get it from a guy in the bar or did the victim bite him? Between classes I took the bite impressions the kids made and separated them into different groups and added the impression that matched the photo evidence, both provided in the kit. Students had to make measurements from the bite mark on an arm (photo) and then measure the various bite impressions to determine who could have cause the mark on the arm. There is a spreadsheet you can download to do an analysis of the data – finding the set of measurements that match the photo the best. I entered the data for each group and it was interesting that two of them had 2 bite impressions that were pretty close to the photo so I told them to look at the photo closely for identifying marks like crooked teeth or missing teeth that would help them make a decision.
This was a pretty interesting lab and I wish the kits weren’t so expensive so we could buy more. This one classroom kit was $129. I did see that they now sell a small classroom edition that contains all the experiments for a little over $300 and its good for 6 kids. So it might work well for a homeschool co-op, everyone pitch in $60 to buy the kit and do the labs together. When you buy a kit you get access to their online resources.
Overall nice lab kit, just wish the price was lower.