Here are some of the best FREE online forensics activities for High School and Middle School Forensic Science! Includes links and teaching ideas!
Resources cover DNA, Anthropology, Autopsies and more! All free and available online.
NOTE – three of my favorite free forensics resources have recently been discontinued by their host sites! Very sad….
So I have deleted them from this post, and will be looking for new replacement resources over the next few weeks to add to this now truncated list!
The Innocence Project was founded to help people who were wrongly convicted based on faulty evidence and/or shady forensic practices. Years old evidence is re-examined with new techniques – DNA analysis. Over 300 people were set free from jail . Their DNA did not match the crime scene DNA.
The Innocence Project also pushes for policy reform in hopes to stop future injustice. Articles on the website discuss the potential problems with some types of evidence (particularly hair, fiber, bite marks, and eyewitness testimony) and how to prevent wrongful convictions.
We do an Innocence Project Project every year. Students are put into small groups. Each group presents one wrongful conviction case.
If you go here, and click ‘filters’ at the top right, then select ‘contributing cause’ you will find six different categories. Students also research the general problems with their category of evidence and what policies have been (or should be) put into place to prevent wrongful convictions.
The Innocence Project stories always amaze students. Of particular interest is the compensation that some of the exonerated people received, or did not receive. The differences are huge.
The final part of this project is to watch the amazing story of Ronald Cotton. The victim identified Ronald as her attacker – but she was wrong! I will not give away the story, because it is so worth watching the 60-Minute interview with both the victim and Ronald Cotton. Have tissues at the ready, especially for the end!
Here is the Innocence Project Project that my students do, available on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Autopsies are fascinating to students. While there are several very graphic autopsy YouTube videos, I prefer having my students work through this digital autopsy from the Australian Museum website.
There is no blood or gore in the interactive! Students are guided through the cut, organ removal and weighing, brain examination, and putting everything back together! I use online autopsy after direct instruction and before our hands-on Rat Autopsy.
Looking for more info about autopsies, forensic entomology and decomposition? Take a look at this collection of articles and photographs from the Australian Museum!
Here is a treasure trove of resources for Forensic Anthropology! This main page brings you to five sections to explore. Skeleton Keys teaches students how to read bones to determine age, gender, and ethnicity.
On several subsections you will find links to printable PDFs (see the middle of this page) with the same information PLUS an actual skeleton for students to analyze!
The Forensic Case Files section contains eight true cases of skeletons found at historical sites. The website goes through each photo and discusses what the bones tell us about the life (and death) of each individual. Some of these photos I pull off of the website and use separately in Stations where students have to figure out what may have happened.
More online forensics activities at the Smithsonian include: an interactive Web-comic, more details about the science of Forensic Anthropology, and stories from skeletons found in the people of Colonial Chesapeake.
Forensic Files Episodes
It is hard to find a better and more diverse resource than Forensic File episodes on YouTube. All 100% free, and each one showcasing amazing feats of Forensic Investigation in real life!
In my classroom, we have the tradition of Forensic Files Friday. Each Friday we watch one episode that coincides with the topic we are currently learning.
To get the most out of the experience, my students must fill out the Forensic Episode Guide, which focuses them on the most important parts of each show, and gives them a chance to reflect on the case. You can download my episode guide for free!
The most challenging part of Forensic File Friday is to find that perfect episode! Also, some episodes (though rare) are explicit or graphic and not appropriate for young audiences!
This is why I created a list of my favorite episodes, organized by topic! Use this resource to quickly find exactly what you are looking for. It will save hours of your life!
Just as their homepage says, this website ‘has it all!’ Lab activities, tips for how to teach Forensic Science concepts, and lists of great links to more resources. You have free access to over thirty issues, each one focusing on particular areas of forensics.
The articles include freebies and lesson plans written by experienced Forensics teachers There are also interview with CSI and experts in their field. Every topic imaginable!
Do you have any favorite free online forensics activities that you use in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!