CSI: Fay School
Fourth grade scientists are honing their observational skills this spring in a unit on forensic science. Science teacher Tim McCauley has broken the topic down into weekly mini-units on fascinating topics like fingerprints, blood typing, hair analysis, and footprints.
Students began by exploring fingerprints, what they are, where they come from, and why everyone’s fingerprints are different. The fourth graders learned how to “lift” fingerprints from an object, even inviting Mr. Besch and Ms. Hart to stop by the classroom and touch a few things so that they could dust for prints afterward! Students looked at the arches, whorls, and loops of their own prints and learned how to use heat and super glue on objects to make prints appear.
The next topic they delved into was blood and blood types. Students learned about the function of blood, the difference between red and white blood cells, and how hemoglobin in blood carries oxygen throughout the body through a network of veins. As they studied synthetic blood droplets, students also learned a bit of physics, noting that a droplet that falls straight down looks very different from a droplet that falls from an object in motion.
When students get to hair analysis, they will have the opportunity to compare different hair types, such as human hair to dog hair. In a few weeks, they will also get practice tracking footprints and using plaster of Paris to make a mold of a footprint that captures the pattern on the sole of a shoe and the direction it was heading.
“This work is all about observation and analysis,” says Tim. “It forces the kids to really slow down and think about what they are looking at, the information they have been given, and how to process it.” For the final project of the term, Tim plans to set up a “crime scene” where the students will apply their observational skills and the forensic techniques they have learned to solve the crime!