Evaluation of Bloodstain Patterns Project Authentic Learning for Forensics!


Students Become Blood Spatter Experts

My students love Forensics because they get to do activities that are authentic. Forget just reading about how Criminalists process crime scenes…. In Forensics, my students take it to another level and actually ARE Criminalists and they LOVE it!

We actually just finished this project last week and had “court” Monday and Tuesday.  For this project, my students were divided into groups of 6 (I have 24-25 students in my Forensics classes this year).  Each student was an expert in a field and had a job (complete with job description to keep things equal) within the group:

The group then had to decide upon a “story” they would illustrate using bloodstain patterns that they created (at least 1 stain had to be a medium velocity).  I supplied the “murder weapons” as well as various accessories (butcher paper & food service gloves*cheap from Sams!*, paint brushes, pipettes, spray bottles, etc) they used to recreate high, medium, and low velocity spatter.

I’ve found that the more realistic I can be with their assignments, the better participation and “buy in” I have from my students.  So, I always create real-world forms/ reports for each of the experts to go along with their specific responsibilities. Once student groups got their “story” illustrated, they submitted all of their forms/reports to the “crime lab” (aka me).

Since I have 2 classes of Forensics, I let the “stories” from one class become the “unknown” that my other class investigated.  As part of the investigation, students were expected to calculate the angle of incidence for 15 blood drops in a medium velocity bloodstain.  Then, they used string to create a model of the blood droplet’s projected path.  This string was then attached to a stationary object (we used big cardboard shipping tubes that I saved).  Once all the blood droplet paths were modeled, the overall area of convergence was easily determined from the location that the majority of strings crossed.  img_2445Once the model was created, groups had to examine the reports and other paperwork submitted by the group who created the spatter in order to determine whether the story was consistent with their analysis or not. clip bloodstain pattern slide

Groups prepared a short presentation via Google Slides for our “court” day.

Awesome Sites for Additional Research




Analyze a practice case at https://bloodspatter.com/analyze-a-case

Explore a career as a Blood Spatter Analyst https://www.thebalancecareers.com/bloodstain-pattern-analyst-job-information-974465

Overall, this has to be one of my favourite projects for my Forensics class to do.  It really involves them in authentic,cross-curricular learning.  To purchase this entire project (including all instructions, forms, and alternative enrichment assignments), please visit my TpT store at

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Life-Sized Cardiovascular/Circulatory System Models!


The Struggle is REAL…..

My students struggle because most anatomical diagrams are small and can be difficult for them to analyze. My class created big bodies with basic organs from an outline I drew for their Gallery Walk  at the conclusion of our first unit on the body systems. It was SO beneficial for them!  Check out my previous blog post on this here https://ateacherontheedge.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/intro-to-anatomy-physiology-review-and-body-systems-gallery-walk/img_0073They loved having such large-sized structures to work with and told me that it really helped them remember the organs. I looked for pre-made life-sized bodies with organs, but sadly only found things appropriate for elementary students.  Definitely not detailed enough for Juniors and Seniors in high school, many of whom plan to pursue a career in the medical field.  So, I decided that I should create LIFE-SIZED diagrams which I knew would focus on the important structures of the system but, at the same time, be RIGOROUS enough for my high school Anatomy students…

So here is a little peek at the finished products for the Cardiovascular/ Circulatory System we are doing this week and next (in honor of Valentine’s Day)…

These easy to interpret diagrams are drawn over 8 pages and are easily trimmed and taped together to create a large human body. I drew this project with a lift-the-flap labeled heart, as well as the major circulatory pathway throughout the body already drawn in for students so they would know what to color red and what to color blue.  I plan to use these in teaching the flow of blood as well as the types of vessels. We will also be using the Anatomically Correct Heart Valentine for our heart study.  See it in action in my class here https://ateacherontheedge.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/need-a-cute-activity-for-valentines-day-create-an-anatomically-correct-valentine/  (Link to purchase the bundle on TpT is here https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/3D-Heart-Activity-WTeachers-Guide-Bundle-WAnatomically-Correct-HeartValentine-3594786 )

I will also have my students color and label the most important arteries and veins. Here’s a picture from a previous class (please excuse the wrinkles, I folded it and put it in my filing cabinet lol) They also used yarn instead of coloring.  img_0137

This is the list of arteries and veins we will learn and label. img_0138-e1549454313238.jpg

This is new in my TpT store!  You can check it out here –> https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Anatomy-Practicals-Life-Sized-CardiovascularCirculatory-System-PROJECT-4355366

It is the first installment in my newest project called Anatomy Practicals! These will cover each body system and provide your students with life-sized diagrams as well as the important organs included… all rigorous enough for high school Anatomy students! I have also bundled these with instructions for the project that my students did for each system.  Stay tuned for all systems to be posted!


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Looking for a Cute Thanksgiving Activity for Anatomy? How about an “Anatomically Correct” Hand Turkey…


Every Kid Loves to Make a Hand Turkey at Thanksgiving Right??

My students are in the middle of the Skeletal System right now.  Since they are having a lot of trouble remembering the bones of the wrist, I tried to think of a creative way for them to practice, yet still have fun (especially since Anatomy & Physiology can be so heavy on the memorization at times).  I always like to have a little fun around the holidays (and give students a reason NOT to check out of school right before a break lol) so what better way to practice than to go old school elementary school and make hand turkeys!! 🙂


I think students do much better in Anatomy if their diagrams are larger and easier to label (totally not a proven scientific fact lol! However, it is my own personal opinion but it really does help).  So, in addition to drawing Sketch Notes, I’ve also been drawing their diagrams in a manner that cuts through all the “extra” stuff and narrows it down to the important structures.  (another blog post on this later so stay tuned).

renderedimageAnyway, I drew the hand diagrams really large for my students and used the Ventral View of the Left Hand for this one (… before you ask, YES I did draw it from tracing my own hand lol and that’s how I got the idea for them to do a hand turkey from the diagram).  I made a chart of all the bones and the corresponding colors for each one.  To differentiate for my students, I will probably number the bones and put the corresponding number next to the correct bone in their chart.  That way, they can check themselves with the numbers and not have to just remember the name of the bone.  The picture above is how the turkey should look colored correctly. Students will add eyes, feet, feathers, etc and turn it into their own Thanksgiving turkey.  Hopefully, this will help them practice learning the bones of the wrist and hand.

Like to try it in your classroom?  Visit my TpT Store for the activity that INCLUDES the large hand diagram! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Anatomically-Correct-Hand-Turkey-Activity-Lg-Size-Easier-to-Label-4191311

Like the LARGER diagrams?  Follow me on TpT so you can stay updated when I post additional things!  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm

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Intro to Anatomy & Physiology Review and Body Systems Gallery Walk



Looking for a creative way to introduce the body systems in Anatomy?  Try a Gallery Walk!

The first unit in Anatomy & Physiology is HUGE…. I mean really huge!! So, I decided to try something different to really get my students engaged and ready to tackle what is often a very difficult course.  This year, we used a Gallery Walk for the body systems!

What did we do?

Each student group took on the roles of medical students who were asked to present information about their particular body system to patients at our “Medical Clinic”. They were responsible for creating a life-sized body from templates that I drew (Side note: At one point I wanted to create a life-sized foldable body for my Anatomy classes so I had many organs & the outlines already drawn.  I have pretty much finished it now because I have seen what an awesome learning tool it is for my Anatomy kids! Hopefully, I’ll get it uploaded to TpT pretty soon).

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Here is the main part of their project requirements:

body system gallery walk req clip

As you can see, I gave them guidelines, yet also gave them a chance to make their project meaningful to their classmates.  I collected the 3 questions each group wrote down about their own body system and typed them up for everyone to use during the Gallery Walk.  My kids loved it!  The groups then discussed their body system and everyone checked their answers.  Here’s a part of one class’ questions: gallery walk questions

I did this Gallery Walk as the last station of my review station lab for Unit 1.  Within the stations, they played “You be the Doctor” card game (that I made up lol~ They loved it!), as well as creating anatomical planes with pipe cleaners on my little skeleton.  img_0112They even played a game of Operation (the old board game that buzzes) where they had to remove the “organs” in a certain order according to the description (using anatomical terms).  Their favorite station was my light sabers (thank goodness for Amazon) where they had to cut their lab partner into specific anatomical planes.  My classes did very well on their Unit 1 Exam.  I’ll definitely use this again next year! Here are some pictures of their systems:

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Don’t forget to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Drm

Check out my website for my Sketch Notes! https://www.biologysketchnotes.com/


Posted in Anatomy & Physiology, Instructional Coaching, Strategies, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Autopsy of a Dill Pickle- A Great Introductory Lab for Anatomy or Forensics!


img_9947A Pickle Autopsy? YES!

If you teach Anatomy & Physiology, you know the struggle of the first unit…. it’s HUGE!! … and jam-packed with things that are absolutely essential for students to know in order to be successful in the course.  I usually struggle with finding activities to review the body cavities and directional terms.  This year, someone suggested using the pickle autopsy and I’m so glad I did!

The lab I used was published in The Forensic Teacher and would be appropriate for either discipline (I teach both this year).  Here is the link to the lab I used http://www.theforensicteacher.com/Labs_files/picklelabsheets.pdf  A clever fellow teacher friend came up with the storyline that there was a gang war between the Claussens and the Vlasics in the fridge that resulted in no survivors. I loved it so I also used that storyline to frame my lab.

Set Up– The Basics

Now that I had my lab picked out and my story to tell, I had to figure the logistics of how to get everything set up.

First, the pickles….


I found the big jars of dills at Walmart for $5.97 each. The smaller pickles I got because I wanted some of my “victims” to be pregnant (or they could also be small children pickles lol).  I had a hard time estimating how many pickles were in the big jars, but these 2 had a total of 33 pickles– more than enough for my classes. The picture below shows them separated by “male” and “female” victims (my “male” pickles are the ones with the stems lol).

Here are all the supplies I used for the lab: img_9916

How to make them look like victims….

I glued wiggly eyes onto thumbtacks for their eyes (so I can reuse them)img_9917

I also used pellets that go in pellet guns for bullet wounds (I smashed them a little with the hammer first and dipped them into gel food coloring before I stuck them in the “victims”)img_9922

I made their heads from an olive stuck on a toothpick– some I even squished so their “brains” fell out a little lol.  I also gave all of them a “spine” (a toothpick on the dorsal side just under the skin).  I also broke several of the toothpicks so this “injury” might be discovered and included in the story of their “victim”. img_9937.jpg

All the “victims” had a bead implanted in the vicinity of their heart.  If the bead was red, they had a normal heart.  If it was black or dark purple, it represented a heart attack.  I found that if you make a slit on the side of the pickle (choose a wrinkle), it will often be completely unnoticeable and students will wonder how in the world you got those beads in there!  I also slipped in a small green bead in the neck region of a few of the “victims” and told my students I heard that some of the gang members involved in the war were caught raiding the grapes from the fridge and several choked on them when their leader caught them.

I also told them that the gang members were not healthy and many had various diseases and disorders because they didn’t take care of themselves.  Many had white beads implanted in various areas.  These beads represented a tumor in the particular area.  Knotted pieces of rubber bands in the abdominal region represented parasites.  Many had broken toothpick “limbs”.  I also had several who were pregnant.

This is the sheet of “Helpful Hints” I gave my students with their lab:


A Snapshot of My “Victims”

I separated my “victims” into 4 general types based on their cause of death:

  1. Trauma or internal bleeding (Stabbed or gunshot, injected with red food coloring)
  2. Poisoning/ Drug Overdose (I soaked them in baking soda but didn’t get a very good result)
  3. Heart Attack (black bead instead of red bead in chest)
  4. Drowning (blue food coloring injected in chest area)


My “victims” had multiple things that could have resulted in their deaths, but having 4 major things just helped me keep it organized. I also put them in separate dishes while I plotted their demise 🙂 img_9926

I also kept them separate in labeled gallon ziplock bags to transport them to school. img_9927

The Lab Set Up

I set my lab up as a mini crime scene.  I had some fake vampire blood from my forensics class that I also added to help set the scene.  I also added in some extra plastic swords and pellets around the “victims”.  (I let my students pick their own “victim” from the scene). img_9948

Group Jobs

Students were in a lab group of 3 per “victim”.  In my lab, every student in the group has a specific job and job description.  It just helps my lab groups run more smoothly and tends to decrease the possibility that one student does the lion’s share of work.  These are the jobs I gave my groups for this lab: img_9936.jpg

My Take on the Pickle Autopsy Lab

Would I use it again? Absolutely!  My students became very proficient at actually using the directional terminology and identifying the body cavities that we talked about in class.  I heard many meaningful conversations within the groups… “That’s a break in his arm that’s intermediate between the shoulder and the elbow” “I think this sword went through the abdominal cavity and not the thoracic cavity”…. This was so much better than hearing them try to memorize a diagram or a chart of the directional terms!

They loved getting into our “gang warfare” story.  I had them fill out a Coroner’s Report detailing the abnormalities they found both in, and on their “victim”, as well as the location of these abnormalities.  Then, they had to determine the cause of death for their victim, supporting their opinion with specific details from their autopsy.  At all times within their report, they had to incorporate correct anatomical terminology.  Finally, they had to create a narrative of what happened to their “victim” based on the findings from their autopsy.  Several groups shared with the class.  It was lots of fun!



Posted in Anatomy & Physiology, Forensics, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Fun First Day Activity for ANY Class- Free Download!!


What am I going to do on the FIRST DAY of class????

This question starts rattling around in my head as soon as the firecrackers go off on the 4th of July.  Ugh!

Since I know the first day(s) of class set the tone and expectations for the entire school year, the pressure in ON to grab students’ attention (and interest) right from the beginning.  I don’t want my first class days to be spent going over the syllabus and course rules/expectations ad nauseum.  Who wants to sit there while the teacher tells you over and over that you’re expected to do all of your work while conducting yourself in a rational manner?  Those things are important, don’t get me wrong, but working together and communicating are also important in my classroom, especially since we utilize teams & groups so often.  So here’s what I did with my classes, both Anatomy & Physiology and Forensics….


The Activity:

Students were given 6 big yellow plastic cups at their lab station.  I placed them stacked up, one inside the other, on the lab bench as if they were waiting to be filled with water.  They were also given a “contraption” I made before class of 1 rubber band with 5 pieces of yarn tied to it at equal intervals (I had 5 students in my groups).  The rubber band was a medium thickness one (not one of the super skinny ones).  The yarn I cut was about 4 ft long per piece.  I folded it in the middle and used the center to make a knot around the rubber band so each student had 2 free “tails” of yarn (it helps them manipulate better).  You can see what it looked like in the picture below.


The first task students had was to take the stack of 6 cups, separate them, turn them over, and create a pyramid with 3 on the bottom, 2 on the 2nd row, and 1 on the top.  The catch– They could not touch the cups with their hands, elbows, chins, etc (don’t ask– they tried every way! LOL).  For my Forensics class, I made them do this without talking to each other (Oh gosh, this was so hard but so fun!).

teambuilding snap

They had to time their efforts and record their times in the data table.  We only had time to do 1 run through of each attempt, but you could do as many as time allows.  After they finished the silent trial, then they could talk as they built.  Each time, I had them begin with the cups stacked inside each other and on the table the same way.  They also timed themselves as they deconstructed the pyramid.  Once they had their data from the 6 cups, I gave them “extra materials”.  You could use anything, but I had styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups in my closet so I gave them 2 of each.  They had to repeat their pyramid building using ALL of the materials they were given.  It was challenging for my kids because the cups weren’t the same size.  They found they had to come up with a “game plan” and strategize the best placement for the cups so that their pyramid would be straight enough to stand.  Here are some of the different ways my students made their pyramids:

My Forensics class had an additional task of building a huge pyramid with ALL of the materials I had available (everyone’s yellow cups, as well as everyone’s styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups).  It was awesome!


Follow-up questions were completed as well.  teambuilding followup

So what did we gain as a result of this activity?

As students, they had to see that the importance of working in a group with communication between group members being KEY.  When I had them build the big pyramid as a whole class, it was chaos for a few minutes!  Then, the natural leaders emerged, the natural organizers got everyone in line, the natural critical thinkers put pencil to paper and figured out the logistics of what they were building.   As a teacher, it helped me figure out which students take charge..which ones quietly just get things accomplished.. which ones are analytical.. and which ones need a little extra “teacher presence”.  All in all, I think it was a successful activity for the first day of class.  We are on alternating block schedule and I had several students on the 2nd day say that everyone couldn’t wait for my class so they could try it for themselves!

I hope everyone has a great school year.  So far, mine is off to a fantastic start! (Translate= I survived the first week lol)

I put the worksheet in my Gdrive if you are interested in trying this activity with your students.  To download the data sheet, please visit this link https://docs.google.com/document/d/1D2ME1zVWGZt0218zY8hhelDRfW9qnmUNQMF-doDhroU/copy

If Google Drive link doesn’t work, please try this link Copy of Forensics Data Sheet for Teambuilding Task

Posted in Anatomy & Physiology, biology, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Strategies, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Launched! Biology Sketch Notes~ My New Website!!

clip Website home page

I’m so excited! My new website launched today!

Wow! This has been a labor of love!  Today, I marked something off my bucket list.  My very own website for Biology Sketch Notes has launched!  Head on over to https://www.biologysketchnotes.com/ and check it out!

Stay tuned for more exciting news coming soon!

Posted in biology, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Professional Learning Team, Sketch Notes, Strategies, T.I.P Theory Into Practice, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment