A Forensic Fairytale- Day 1- Crime Scene


She really just wanted to share the little cottage in the forest with her special little guy, her woodland creatures, and live happily ever after there… NOT at the castle with a stuffy, vain Prince! It was after one heart-wrenching visit back to the forest that Snow White hatched a plan…. “If all the other dwarfs are gone, my sweetheart and I can live out our dreams!”  So, she set out to make that happen. She looked up the old witch with the apple orchard. She made all the arrangements. She had everything in order to hatch this horrendous deed. However, there was one thing she didn’t couldn’t have ever predicted……..

One by one, the dwarfs are missing…. What is going on?

The last last month of school is hard… really hard… and when you have Juniors and SENIORS in Forensics, it’s 863,950,999 times as hard! Seniors have already graduated (in their minds lol) and Juniors have Senior-itis.  I feel like I really earn my paycheck this last month of school.  This year, I am determined to provide experiences that make my students really not want miss my class during this time when they are tempted to mentally “check out”.

So, this year, I wanted to do some sort of crime scene outside that might take several class meetings.  I remembered my bargain Halloween skeletons I bought right after Halloween for just a little over $4 at Target.

Great buy, but I have had trouble figuring out how to use the half-sized skeletons.  (And if you have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them!  They are pretty close anatomically and they’re jointed). 7518848048_img_1687

Since I had 6 of them, I decided to do some sort of mystery involving the fairytale Snow White and use the little skeletons for her “sidekicks”.  We recently finished our study of Forensic Anthropology so I wanted to do something where they had to reassemble them correctly, as well as examine them as Medical Examiners.  I had 2 guys from another class disassemble them (they were screwed together). Then, I decided it might be interesting to have my students sift through and process evidence in the excavation of a shallow grave.


I created “Missing Persons” flyers from a template I found online.  You can access it here and it downloads in Word format.  I tried to think of silly clues for my “characters” that would allow me to leave with my little skeletons so students could figure out whose grave they were excavating and which character was missing from the scene. The pictures below are my “graves” before I covered them back up with mulch.

I used things like colors of clothing they were wearing in whatever picture I used for them.  I bought cheap t-shirts at a discount store and used a box cutter to rip them up as if they had been in the grave for a period of time.  img_8831I also used accessories as clues and included things like “wears glasses” on the Missing Persons poster.  It’s easy to find things like reading glasses, sunglasses, etc at the local Dollar Tree.  (I think I got almost everything we used for this activity for maybe $25 at Dollar Tree).  I also tucked little “clues” away in their hats, just to help those who were handling their evidence carefully.  Hopefully, on Crime Lab day, they will open their hat and see this label——————>

Below is a sample of one of my Missing Persons posters.  I made one for each dwarf as well as one for Snow White and the Prince (because maybe they were the killers, who knows? 🙂 )

dwarf mp snip

That’s where this Forensic Fairytale started…

You have seen the Missing Persons flyers all over town.  It seems that every year, there is another one posted. You have always wondered what was happening to the famous little men that live near our area.  You’ve heard the stories about the secret diamond mine where they work. Your parents told you all about the girl named Snow White that ate the poisoned apple and slept until Prince Charming came to wake her with a kiss. You’ve even seen the wicked witch… once.. when you and your friends were exploring the forest after you were forbidden to play there when you were young. Now, bones have begun turning up near the edge of the forest. The bones are really small, even though they look like human bones and not those from animals.  Could there be a connection between the missing dwarfs and these bones? Did something terrible happen in their happy little world? You and your team must investigate the area to determine the source. Then, you must piece together this tale of mystery and deceit. Who do the bones belong to? What happened?

Day 1- The Crime Scene

  1. Getting Ready! – My students thought they were having an Anthropology exam 🙂 In fact, I watched them quiz each other over lunch lol.  When we returned to the room, my School Resource Officer came in and said, “Hey I know you’ve been studying bones so can you help me with this? A dog brought it home to a resident after being in the woods and I need to find out out about it. What can you tell me?img_8910 Will you help me find the source?” My students immediately jumped on the opportunity and knew we were doing something much more fun than a test 🙂
  2. Supplies I used-  For digging in the dirt for evidence, I used children’s sand buckets and trowels. Once again, everything came from Dollar Tree 🙂 Helpful hint= Either number (or color code) E.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g! Makes check in and clean up a breeze!img_8855
  3. Student Supplies/ Information-  I always try to have everything organized for my students before we do a big crime scene (buckets, clipboards, etc).  It helps all of us!  For this scene, I loaded their buckets with digging implements, as well as brown paper lunch bags for evidence collection, and a small clear condiment container for their soil sample.  I also put all of their forms, logs, etc onto clipboards so they would have something to write on outside (plus, they tell me they love it because it feels so “official” 🙂 ) Another helpful tip= Invest in some clipboards! They are inexpensive and my students are able to work anyplace we happen to be for a crime scene.  They even grab them for lab days.  Definitely worth the small investment! A second helpful tip= Amazon has really inexpensive tape measures in fun colors.  I just got a pack of 10 for maybe $8.  They are plastic coated so they won’t tear and are 60″ long.  I like them so much better than metal tape measures which were constantly messing up.  I have a long 50m tape that we share for large areas, but the little tapes are perfect for most things we do.  Click here for the Amazon link to the tapes I bought. (Side note: They smell a little weird at first, but it fades after they “air out” a little.) img_8860
  4. Forms I used- I love forms for Forensics.  I think it just adds to the authenticity of the course when students are expected to complete official documents in conjunction with whatever they are doing, just like they will in the “real world”. It’s also helpful in grading too!  I don’t have to search for information and hope they have everything completed because everything that is expected is all in one place.  It also helps keep my EL and IEP students organized because sometimes organization is their obstacle. For this crime scene, I typed up forms for:
    1. Student job assignments- In my experience, everybody has to have a job expectation/responsibility or only one student ends up doing the work. I student jobs snipalways try to think of authentic Forensic jobs that would actually be involved in the task that my students are asked to do.  For this one, we had evidence techs, forensic sketch artists, etc.
    2. Photography log- I know this isn’t used as often now in the digital age as it was photography log snipin the age of film cameras, but I think it helps keep my students organized and reminds them to photograph everything before evidence is disturbed or collected.  They do also photograph because they will need the pictures for their presentation at the end.
    3. Crime Scene Sketch-  I always make a form with graph paper embedded into it for the sketch, but you could just use a simple piece of graph paper for this part.
    4. Evidence log & form- Since I had them collect and package evidence from this scene, I had a separate Evidence Log as well as a half-page Evidence Form they had to attach to each bag.  evidence log snipThe bottom of the Evidence Form also has an area for Chain of Custody so we can practice that on Day 2 when we go to the Crime Lab for evidence processing. Helpful hint= Since I have 2 sections of Forensics and our school is on alternating block schedule (we meet every other day, blue day and white day), I had my students identify everything by a Case ID. For this case, their Case ID was the day they met (BL for blue, WH for white) and the grave site they excavated (there were 6).  This makes evidence organization so much easier for Crime Lab day! img_8877
    5. Crime Scene management-  Give students plenty of room and plenty of time!  I learned this lesson early on in teaching Forensics.  What I think should take 45 minutes really takes 90 minutes in “teenager time”  🙂 For this project, we will do Crime Scene Processing on 1 day, Crime Lab on another day, and dedicated group work for presentations/ infographic creation on a third day. Students are not always efficient, they don’t always approach things logically.  (Big shocker, yeah?) This crime scene was at the edge of the woods along a trail.  7518848048_img_1685 Graves were dug probably 20ft apart, but I could stand at one end of the trail and see students at the other end.  Our School Resource Officer has a golf cart (complete with lights and siren yay!) so he often helps me or lets me borrow it for our outside scenes.  For that, I am truly grateful because I walked 6 miles yesterday on Crime Scene day according to my Apple watch!

Overall, Day 1 of this Forensic Fairytale was awesome.  My students have really surprised me over this past year with the development of so many skills.  I have pushed them hard, but time after time, they have risen to the challenge.  Hopefully, this hard work will continue with Crime Lab on Day 2. Stay tuned……

This PBL is now available in my TpT Store! It contains everything you need to do this activity with your class! No prep with forms, labs, etc.. Just print & go! Check it out here https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Forensic-Fairytale-A-PBL-UNIT-Incl-Sketch-NotesTeacher-Guide-Crime-Scene-4653711


About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
This entry was posted in Forensics, Project Based Learning PBL, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Forensic Fairytale- Day 1- Crime Scene

  1. Tiffany says:

    Could you provide a link to the teacher pay teachers page for this activity? I would love to use this in my class this upcoming year.

  2. Pingback: Teamwork makes the dream work! But only if its Cooperative | Science Teaching

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