Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation (Grade 12)

by Christy Biancullo, MS

This course is designed to give students both theory and experience in a fast-paced, rigorous, multi-disciplinary college preparatory course that provides an association between science-based inquiry and the criminal justice system. Emphasis is on understanding the underlying scientific theories of forensic science, with particular emphasis on biology and chemistry. This class will build upon the students' prior knowledge of biology and chemistry, learning laboratory techniques and procedures to analyze and identify trace physical evidence, including DNA.

Students will use their academic and laboratory skills to develop a deeper understanding of science and its relation to crime scene investigation in the field of criminal justice.


Program Information
Course Certification Elements
Course Standards
Course Competencies / Outcomes


  • Collect evidence from crime scenes, storing it in conditions that preserve its integrity.
  • Collect impressions of dust from surfaces to obtain and identify fingerprints.
  • Confer with ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, documents, electronics, medical, chemical, or metallurgical experts concerning evidence and its interpretation
  • Examine and analyze blood stain patterns at crime scenes.
  • Examine physical evidence, such as hair, fiber, wood, or soil residues to obtain information about its source and composition.
  • Identify and quantify drugs or poisons found in biological fluids or tissues, in foods, or at crime scenes.
  • Interpret laboratory findings or test results to identify and classify substances, materials, or other evidence collected at crime scenes.
  • Keep records and prepare reports detailing findings, investigative methods, and laboratory techniques.
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus.
  • Prepare solutions, reagents, or sample formulations needed for laboratory work.
  • Reconstruct crime scenes to determine relationships among pieces of evidence.
  • Review forensic analysts' reports for technical merit.
  • Testify in court about investigative or analytical methods or findings
  • Use chemicals or other substances to examine latent fingerprint evidence and compare developed prints to those of known persons in databases.
  • Use photographic or video equipment to document evidence or crime scenes.
  • Visit morgues, examine scenes of crimes, or contact other sources to obtain evidence or information to be used in investigations.
Course Work Based Learning Activities

Field trips:

Sheriff Coroner's Office

County Jail

City Jail

City Police Department

County Sheriff’s Department

Superior Court

Guest speakers:

911 Dispatcher

Crime Scene Technician

Forensic Scientist

Anthropologist

Pharmacist

Judge

Pathologist

Coroner’s Investigator   

Police Department

Sheriff’s Department

Probation

Parole

Border Patrol

FBI

DEA

ATF

NCIS

Military

Job Shadows:

Police Ride-Along

Explorer Program 

Cadet Program

Every 15 Minutes 

Course Materials

Bertino, A.J. (2012). Forensic Science. Mason, OH: South Western Cengage. ISBN – 13: 9780538731153

Hess, K. M., Hess, C. O., & Cho, H. L. (2017). Criminal investigation (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage. ISBN - 13: 9781285862613

Crime scene tape, graph paper, traffic and crime scene evidentiary sketch templates, photography equipment, fingerprint identification kit, clipboards, FBI ten cards, ridgecounters, magnifying glasses, goggles, simulated blood, fuming kit, latex gloves, paper bags, evidence tags and envelopes, chain of custody forms, flashlights, black lights, rulers, protractors, measuring tapes, crafting board,  household items, plaster paris, metal or plastic crate, kitchen blender, refrigerator, microscopes, slides and cover slips. 

Course Units (180 hour course)

Unit 1 Observation Skills

15 Hours 

This unit will provide the student with an overview of the importance of a crime scene investigator possessing the abilities to observe, interpret, and report observations clearly.

Included are: comparing and contrasting the accuracy of eyewitness accounts to the actual events, the changes that occur within our brain as we make observations, factors that affect the ability to observe and to report accurately what has been seen and four different ways to improve observational skills. Students will be introduced to the Innocence Project and various cases of wrongful convictions.

Unit Competencies

Define and understand  forensic science

Define observation and what changes occur in the brain under stress

Describe factors and provide examples and situations influencing  that can influence an eyewitness’s perspective and accounts of the crime

Compare the reliability of eyewitness testimony to the actual event

Practice and improvement of observation skills

Unit Assessment

Students will research the history of the Innocence Project, and will work in teams to create a visual presentation of their choice (video creation, skit, PowerPoint presentation, oral report) containing: origins of the organization, co-founders, notable cases, exonerees, forensic science involved, pictures, graphs, and resources. Students will present their visual product to the class. From the presentation 5 student audience members are chosen at random to rate/peer review/give feedback to each presentation. This feedback is included in the overall assessment grade for the project.

Reading/Writing Component

Following the reading from Chapter 1; "Observation Skills" (pgs. 2-11) students will examine the purpose of The Innocence Project created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld. Students will compose a 2-3 page narrative document explaining the events of a case after they gather pertinent information from digital sources and text. They will provide significant and relevant facts, concrete details, and quotations.  This document will be well structured and contain the sequence of events. APA formatting/guidelines is required.

Unit 2 Crime Scene Investigation

30-40 Hours

Unit Description:

This module of instruction introduces students to the essential functions of the crime scene investigation team. The primary focus of this unit draws on the team role of legal and scientific professionals who come together to reconstruct and investigate crime scenes. Students will discover the  dichotomy between first responders and varying teams of experts who arrive on a crime scene.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Students will identify chain of custody protocols while investigating an active crime scene. They will understand  the importance of preserving and maintaining the integrity of the crime scene and how to avoid evidence contamination. Students will examine the various roles of an multi-agency investigation and the importance of  maintaining the integrity and the chain of custody. They will demonstrate understanding of basic laws governing arrests, searches and seizures. Students will come to recognize principles of court decisions regarding arrests, searches, and seizures of evidence. Through practical application, students will demonstrate and analyze various types of crime scene search patterns and principles and perform a crime scene search that includes all necessary tools needed to complete a thorough crime scene investigation.

Crime Scene Investigation - each student will learn the procedures for safeguarding, searching, recognition, documentation, collection, and packaging of most categories of physical evidence recovered at the scene of a crime.


Further Objectives:

Locate and secure mock crime scene

Label initial survey of scene and evidence

Draw rough sketch /diagram of crime scene

Identify different types of evidence

Describe photographic evidence to be taken

Prioritize and sequence evidence collection

Collect and package physical evidence

Document crime scene and physical evidence


Unit Assessment

Crime Scene Reconstruction/Crime Scene Sketching

Individual students will learn the coordinate, radial, and triangulation sketching techniques for use in crime scene diagrams. They will locate, identify, and measure and diagram rough sketches using all three methods in two, separate mock crime scenes. Students will construct rough drafts from notes in the classroom. Students will sketch both crime scenes to scale using graph paper for final submission to be included in constructing a crime scene model.

Crime Scene Model Construction

In groups of 4-5, students will reconstruct one of the mock crime scenes from above. Using craftboard and glue, students will create a scale model. Emphasis is placed on recording precise measurements, evidence props, and preparing proper scale for use to construct model. Students will prepare their models for mock court presentation to a jury of their peers.

Objectives

  • Locate and secure mock crime scene
  • Determine reference point for crime scene
  • Measure and draw rough sketch using coordinate method
  • Diagram  formal sketch in classroom from rough draft notes
  • Locate and secure second crime scene
  • Determine reference point for crime scene
  • Measurement and draw rough sketch using radial method
  • Diagram formal sketch in classroom from rough draft notes

Crime Scene Model Construction - each student will make a scale model of a classroom or office using craftboard and various props.

Objectives:

  • Determine reference point for the room or office
  • Identify evidence and measure their location
  • Record precise measurements for rough sketch
  • Create a scale model using craftboard and glue
  • Construct props for evidence in crime scene
  • Classify evidence props in model at proper locations for court presentation

Reading/Writing component

Following the reading from Chapter 2; "Crime Scene Investigation" (pgs. 20-26), students will review the unsolved Natalee Holloway case found at school.cengage.com/forensicscience. Students will search the Gale Institute of Forensics and conduct their own investigation by reading the primary resources available available on that web site. Students will  write a brief one page explanation of their findings using Google docs. Students will defend their argument with sources and apply logic to make conclusions. Students will summarize the Crime Scene Investigators roles and responsibilities, and how forensic tools, procedures and collection were used during the search.


Unit 3 Evidence Collection, Preservation and Processing

15-20 Hours 

Unit Description:

This unit of study is designed to help students examine the admissibility and credibility of evidence collected at a crime scene. Upon completion of this module, students will identify the types of evidence found at a crime scene, evidence unique to an individual and/or certain group as well as evidence of Locard’s Principle of Exchange.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Identifies proper procedures for discovery, recognition, and examination of evidence.

Demonstrates proper procedures for collecting, marking, packaging, and the labeling process of evidence.

Maintains proper procedures for transporting evidence.

Compares and contrasts the proper procedures for storing different types of evidence.

Determines how contraband and/or nuisance evidence is handled and the reasons for such

Unit Assessment

Students will complete a Cast and Impressions Lab where they collect a shoe print using plaster of paris. From this casting they will analyze the shoe or footprint and determine clues about the crime scene. From this analysis students either identify who the suspect might be or catalog information in a database to be held for future comparison in other possible unsolved crimes scenes.

Reading/Writing component

Following the reading from Chapter 3; "Crime Scene Investigation and Evidence Collection" (pgs. 26-31) students will locate the O.J. Simpson case via the internet. They will write a two page essay describing how evidence was lost, misplaced, altered or contaminated. They will further elaborate their findings and provide proof of the positive evidence collection conducted by law enforcement personnel and how both findings affected the outcome of the case. Students will defend their arguments with sources and apply logic to make conclusions. Citing sources and APA Format is required.

Unit 4 Crime Scene Photography

20 Hours 

Unit Description:

This unit addresses the basic rules of evidence in relationship to photographing crime scenes.  Students will examine the steps necessary in photographing impressions, various photographic concepts required to take photographs, role of the forensic photographer and first responder including the types of photographs that can be admissible in court. Advantages and disadvantages of photographing crime scenes will be analyzed.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Label the parts and various functions on the 35 mm/SLR digital  camera.
Use measuring devices and scales for impression evidence.
Differentiate ‘painting with light' for night time or low light photographs.
Illustrate photograph evidence exhibiting different photographic techniques.
Document a mock crime scene

Unit Assessment

Prepare a Photo Log: Evidence Collection of Impression Evidence

Photograph a mock crime scene to include:  foot and shoe impressions, patent and plastic impressions, tire impressions and tread, and dental impressions. Emphasis will be placed on accurately photographing and logging a crime scene using proper techniques needed to document overall, mid-range and close-ups of corresponding evidence.  

Reading/Writing/Project component

Students will read Chapters 15 and 16 (pgs 434-435 and 473-474) gaining a basic understanding of photographing an overall crime scene, impression evidence, and specific evidence significant to the crime. In a small group of 4-5, students will photograph a “staged” crime scene scenario. During the investigation they will properly place evidence placards and take photographs of the crime scene.  They will complete a thorough documentation of their observations and findings via a visual format. The class will complete peer reviews and critique the overall findings.

Unit 5 Fingerprinting

20 Hours

Unit Description:

This unit will address the importance of historical development of fingerprint identification as it relates to investigations. This section prepares the students to identify the formation, characteristics and types of fingerprints discovered by investigators at a crime scene and apply such learning to formulate and forecast possible suspects in a simulated crime. Students will combine knowledge learned in this unit to demonstrate the proper procedures of collecting and analyzing fingerprints.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Discuss the history of fingerprinting.

Describe how and when fingerprint ridges form.

Explain the physical advantage and characteristics of fingerprint ridges.

Distinguish among the three basic types of fingerprints and ridge patterns.

Compare the number of deltas found in an arch, a loop, and a whorl pattern.

Demonstrate how a ridge count in a fingerprint is obtained.

Compare and contrast a plastic fingerprint with a patent fingerprint.

Analyze an inked print and identify errors in how the print was produced.

Discuss the latest in fingerprint technology, including lasers.

Verify the importance of the Automated Fingerprint  Identification System (AFIS).

Unit Assessment

Fingerprint Analyses

Students will locate latent prints on various surfaces and will use available powders (black and fluorescent) to  collect the fingerprints. The prints will be lifted using adhesive tape and will be placed on a print card and labeled appropriately for later analysis. Upon completion, students will discuss the environmental challenges investigators are faced with in real-life situations in a small groups and report out to the whole class those items they think most importance.

Students will ink roll each others fingers to obtain prints and place onto an  FBI ten card using standard black ink. They will identify each fingerprint and be able to properly analyze accurately which of the three classification groups it fits into (arches, loops or whorls).  Students will also demonstrate the use of the ridge counter to determine the amount of deltas found in each fingerprint and then compare like classifications and contrast the differences in the prints (i.e. 30% of the population's print could be classified as whorls. The ridge counter and magnification will show the exact differences between one person's fingerprint that is classified as a whorl and another of the same classification thereby concluding uniqueness of each individual's fingerprint.)

Reading/Writing component

Students will read Chapter 6; "Fingerprints" (pgs. 133-144), case studies, selected articles, selected resource websites, and take notes from selected videos and guest speakers. Students will discover the individuality of fingerprints and review the history of fingerprinting in solving crimes. Students will search the Gale Institute of Forensics and conduct their own investigation by reading the primary resources available on that web site. Students will  write a thorough explanation of their findings. Students will defend their arguments with sources and apply logic to make conclusions. APA format required.

Unit 6 Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Fingerprinting

20 Hours

Unit Description:

This unit provides an overview of the history of biological evidence in forensics. DNA profiling, sources of DNA, collection and preservation of DNA evidence will be discussed. The function and structure of DNA, different DNA bases, steps of DNA fingerprinting and DNA identification will be introduced. Students will extract and examine a DNA profile.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Define how crime scene evidence is collected for DNA analysis

Demonstrate how crime scene evidence is processed to obtain DNA

Discuss why radioactive probes are used in DNA fingerprinting

Examine how DNA evidence is compared for matching

Differentiate how DNA fingerprinting is used to determine if specimens come from related or unrelated individuals

Explore, analyze and practice DNA fingerprinting to identify DNA from a parent, child or relative from another person

Unit Assessment

Create a DNA Double Helix Model

Each student will create a DNA Model from plastic beads

  • Students will connect phosphate (red) and deoxyribose (white) beads to form backbone of the DNA chain
  • Students will connect adenine (blue), thymine (yellow), guanine (green) and cytosine (orange) beads to deoxyribose (white) beads
  • Orientate the two DNA backbone chains in opposite directions to represent the 3 and 5 carbon directions in DNA helix
  • Connect adenine (blue) to thymine (yellow) beads using clear plastic connector (Hydrogen bonds)
  • Connect guanine (green) to cytosine (orange) beads using clear plastic connectors (hydrogen bonds)
  • Spin DNA Helix full circle so that 10 base connections are between full cycle
  • Separate the bases and reconnect with mRNA orientation, replacing the thymine beads with uracil (pink) beads.

DNA Separation - students will participate in group laboratory activity to separate DNA from green peas. Process:

Grind dry green peas and water mixture in blender

Separate pulp from green liquid

Place one drop of detergent in mixture and gently stir

Let stand for ten minutes

Place small amount of meat tenderizer in mixture

Pour 4 ml of 70% isopropyl alcohol in mixture

DNA will appear in alcohol layer

DNA Separation - each student will separate DNA from their own cheek cells

Swish small amount of water in mouth for 30-45 seconds

Spit the mouthwash into test tube

Place one drop of detergent in mouthwash and gently mix

Pour 3 ml of 70% isopropyl alcohol in mouthwash

DNA will appear in the alcohol layer

Reading/Writing component

Students will read Chapter 7; "DNA Fingerprinting" (pgs. 158-174), case studies, selected articles, selected resource websites, take notes from selected videos and guest speakers. Course material will cover DNA fingerprinting, family relationships, and significant crimes in history such as the historic Romanov Family, Laci Peterson, and the Casey Anthony Case. Students will discover the individuality of paternal/maternal DNA testing and forensics in criminal investigations. Students will search the Gale Institute of Forensics and locate two cases in which DNA evidence was used by law enforcement to solve or highlight a cold case. The cases should illustrate different purposes for which DNA was used. Students will summarize their findings in a synopsis of these cases, explaining what happened, and include a thorough analysis outlining their learning through describing the role DNA played in solving the case.


Unit 7 Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

20 Hours 

Unit Description:

This section will explore the history of bloodstain pattern analysis and the physical properties of blood. Bloodstain detection, bloodstain terminology and determining the point of origin of bloodstains will be examined. Screening for the presence of blood, blood spatter pattern analysis  and the work of blood spatter experts will be discussed.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives:

Discusses the nature of the bloodstain evidence.

Analyzes point of origin, point of convergence, angle of impact, terminal velocity Competency: Describe the historical figures in bloodstain pattern analysis

Lists the physical properties of blood

Describes factors that influence the amount and projection of blood spatter

Demonstrates how to determine the point of origin

Practices the procedure for crime scene documentation of bloodstains and collection of bloodstain evidence.

Analyzes bloodstain patterns.

Unit Assessment

Synthetic Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

Single Blood Droplets

Label two pieces of construction paper. Within this laboratory component students will examine and analyze single blood droplets from various distances. Using a dropper bottle, students will conduct blood pattern analysis using various heights. Repeat the exercise two more times for comparison. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet.

Multiple Blood Droplets

Label a long piece of butcher paper (2-3) meters in length. Within this laboratory component students will examine and  analyze single multiple blood droplets from various distances. Using a dropper bottle, students will conduct blood pattern analysis using various heights. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet.

Motion Droplets

Label a long piece of butcher paper (4-5) meters in length. Within this laboratory component students will examine and  analyze single multiple blood droplets using various walking rates. Using a dropper bottle, students will conduct blood pattern analysis using various motion. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet.

Angle of Impact 

Label five pieces of copy paper. Indicate the angle for each droplet - 15o, 30o, 45o, 60o, or 75o. Within this laboratory component students will examine and  analyze sample drop patterns created by droplets landing at different angles from the same height. Using a dropper bottle, students will conduct blood pattern analysis using various heights. Repeat the exercise two more times for comparison. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet.

Reading/Writing component

Students will read Chapter 8; "Blood and Blood Spatter" (pgs. 194-210). Review case studies, selected articles, selected resource websites, take notes from selected videos and guest speakers. Course material will cover blood and blood spatter science, how criminalists are able to use blood evidence to solve crimes, and explore the significant crime scenes in history such as the O.J. Simpson, Jodi Arias and Steven Avery cases.  Students will conduct an internet search and select one of the Case Studies mentioned and imagine they can interview the forensic scientist/pathologist who studied the blood evidence. Students will write the questions and answers from the interview. Interview questions must demonstrate students knowledge about blood and blood spatter evidence. Using Google docs, research findings will be summarized and justified in a one page paper. 

Unit 8 Forensic Anthropology

20 Hours 

Unit Description:

This section will profile the basic scientific rationale and techniques used by forensic anthropologists when examining human bones. Facial reconstruction, bone identification, characteristics of bone, analyzing bones and historic investigations will be reviewed. Students will learn the importance of courtroom testimony when presenting and explaining skeletal remains found at a crime scene, identifying victims, and how bone evidence assist in reconstructing a crime.   

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

Objectives

Define how bone is formed

Distinguish between male and female skeletal remains based on skeletal differences

Discuss how bones contain a record of injuries and disease

Explain how a person’s approximate age could be determined by examining his or her bones

Examine the differences in facial structures among different races

Research the role of mitochondrial DNA in bone identification

Unit Assessment

Basic Human Osteology- each student will demonstrate identification of human bones.

Bones male or female?

Within this assignment, students will refer to figures and charts to determine if skeletal remains belong to a male or female skeleton. Students will analyze their results, explain their findings, present information to the group, and document on a separate worksheet.

Estimation of Body Size From Individual Bones

Within this assignment, provide students with figures and charts to determine the approximate height of a person from one of the long bones of the body. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet.

The Romanovs and DNA: An Internet Activity

Part A:  Romanov Family

Part B: DNA Science Solves a Mystery

Within this activity, students will work in groups as investigators to identify the skeletal remains of the Romanov family. Students will be given the following link Recovering the Romanovs http://www.dnai.org/d/ to begin their investigation. Students will analyze their results and answer the questions on a separate worksheet on what the remains revealed about the family’s fate.

Reading/Writing component

Students will read Chapter 13; "Forensic Anthropology: What We Learn from Bones" (pgs. 360-377), case studies, selected articles, selected resource websites, take notes from selected videos and guest speakers. Course material will cover forensic anthropology related to crime scenes, how forensic anthropologists solve crimes based on the conditions of human remains and study the significant crime victims in history such as Natalee Holloway, Teresa Halbach and the McStay Family.  Students will conduct an internet search and locate the article “Skeletal Analysis”. After reading the article, gathering pertinent information from digital sources and text, students will select one of the Case Studies mentioned. Using Google docs, students will compose a 2-3 page narrative explaining what forensic anthropology techniques were used for victim identification. Citing sources and APA format is required.

Course Summative Assessment

There are two, major Semester Projects referred to as Milestone Project 1 and 2:

Milestone Project 1-
A Milestone Project is due at the end of Module 16. The project requires that students research a sworn or non-sworn Law Enforcement position, department, or organization that he or she DOES aspire to work for. Students will be required to select their topic by Week 4 and share this choice with the instructor and classmates. There are no points awarded for deliverables. Failure to submit the topic by the deadline will alter the student's overall grade on this assignment. 
Milestone Project (100 Points)

For this Milestone Project, students will research and analyze a law enforcement occupation of their choice. Their Portfolio should include the following elements:

  • Describe your chosen program and your reasons for choosing that particular one.
  • Interview or obtain Internet information regarding the program, and write up a description, including as much of the following information as possible.
  • Federal, state or municipal agency
  • History of the organization (e.g. year established, type of work performed, notable cases)
  • Mantra
  • Mission Statement
  • Demographics
  • Law Suits (e.g. excessive use of force, deadly force, ethical/police misconduct
  • Position researched including the responsibilities, requirements, and skills
  • Your presentation should also meet the following requirements:
  • 3-4 minute class presentation
  • Include two outside sources

The student's presentation should also meet ONE of the following requirements:

  • PowerPoint Presentation
  • Essay
  • Poem
  • Literature
  • Song
  • Music
  • Art

Milestone I Rubric

Final Semester Project 

Milestone Project 2-
A scenario project based learning assignment is due at the end of the final semester. Students will be given 4 different scenarios that test their ability to perform four distinct types of tasks related to crime scenes:

  1. Collect and Packaging of Evidence
  2. Process an Indoor Crime Scene 
  3. Process a Vehicular Crime Scene
  4. Process and Outdoor Crime Scene

Students are required to gather the materials they will need and process the scene. This scenario tests student knowledge and ability to observe, process, and collect evidence discussed throughout the course. Students will include photos, evidence, and a crime scene sketch if necessary.