This download of a fun, interactive, 12-unit project-oriented forensic science course (each lesson lasting about an hour) is designed to engage and expose students to this truly fascinating area of science! Students in grades 4-5 are immersed in roles of crime scene investigators as they work together examining and analyzing evidence needed to solve the mystery of the broken cookie jar!
Using real laboratory techniques and materials, students create theories about the “crime” in a classroom, much as real detectives (and real scientists) use their powers of critical thinking to track down the thief. Along the way, they practice this critical thinking, acquire new vocabulary, explore careers in forensics, and become acquainted with scientific procedures and processes they will encounter in their future science electives. At its core, The Cookie Jar Mystery is designed to spark students’ interest in science.
Bringing the Mystery to Life
A crime has occurred in Mrs. Randall’s classroom! Her favorite cookie jar was broken and some of her homemade cookies were eaten. While breaking a cookie jar and snitching a few cookies are hardly serious crimes, they are nevertheless crimes that can be solved using a forensic science approach. Mrs. Randall turns this misfortune into opportunity and calls in a “Chief Crime Scene Investigator” (your course instructor) to lead her “forensics team” (your students) in how to use the tools of forensic science in analyzing clues left at the crime scene. Each student member of this team is a “Crime Scene Investigator” tasked with solving the mystery through scientific observation, sample examination, analysis, lab work, testing, interviews, and field work. To draw the students into the mystery, the instructor sets the stage by recounting Mrs. Randall’s intriguing tale. In advance, the instructor creates names for the four student suspects—names that students will find believable. These names replace “Suspects 1 – 4” used throughout the course materials. The suspects are three girls and one boy, and two of the girls are sisters. Having the instructor choose the names allows the course to be taught again and again, as this approach prevents incoming students from discovering prematurely who committed the crime.
Making the Most of Each Lesson
Instructors will find The Cookie Jar Mystery easy and fun to teach. Each lesson provides an activity that teaches a new but related aspect of scientific reasoning and a particular scientific process. None of the labs require special handling or complicated setups. After familiarizing themselves with the lesson, vocabulary, and intended outcome of the activity, instructors set up their classroom so that it is easy for students to work in groups. Clear guidance is provided in each lesson on how to organize the work areas with all the relevant materials at hand. Any necessary safety precautions specific to individual lessons are also provided.
Lesson 1: Heads Up-Observation Skills
You can't believe your eyes or can you? Budding CSI investigators love to explore the challenge of visual memory and eyewitness testimony in this activity of "Did You See That?"
Lesson 2: Think Ink-Ink Chromatography
The telltale composition of ink can help CSIs identify the perpetrator when students make their own ink chromatographs. Easy-to-follow instructions lead the way in your classroom's forensics laboratory.
Lesson 3: The White Stuff-White Substance and Toxicology
Take a powder, please! Students get a closer look at the differences in white substances (Of course they're all non-toxic!) and at the world of poison science in this riveting research.
Lesson 4: Pull Some Strings-Fiber Analysis
Can scientific analysis of fibers help identify our thief? Students use pocket hand lenses to get up close and personal with fiber analysis, and learn to distinguish between class evidence and direct (conclusive) evidence.
Lesson 5: Hair We Go-Hair Sample
Who knew hair could be so complex? In this activity, can our junior gumshoes match a hair sample to the correct suspect? This absorbing inquiry will have students scratching their heads (and plucking their own hair!) as they delve deeper into the Cookie Jar Mystery.
Lesson 6: Follow the Grain-Pollen Analysis
Achoo! Pollen as evidence? Learners explore another form of trace evidence that often tells where something happened. Students do the legwork in the field as they practice with this essential tool.
Lesson 7: Make an Impression-Bite Marks
Surprisingly simple materials provide all you need for another great lesson in comparing and contrasting for students to "sink their teeth into."
Lesson 8: Bloody Brilliant-Blood Types
Of course, it's not real blood - but we do provide blood evidence substitute that encourages learners to handle evidence just like genuine CSI laboratory technicians. This lesson in blood typing provides a great jump start for future scientists, geneticists and crime scene detectives.
Lesson 9: One of a Kind-Fingerprint Evidence
Oh, the things we leave behind! Everything you always wanted to know about whorls and ridges, fingerprinting technique and more with authentic Ten Cards for each student to make a record of his/her prints.
Lesson 10: Crack the Code-DNA
Learning to unravel the mystery of our genetic code is revealed in this straightforward explanation and lesson helps learners narrow the field of suspects.
Lesson 11: Let's Talk-Questioning Our Suspects
A lie detector isn't the only way of getting at the truth! In this lesson, our junior CSI detectives learn the meaning of the "norm" and how knowing the norm helps sort truth tellers from liars. Students also return to the "scene of the crime" for another look.
Lesson 12: Who Dunnit?-Examining & Analyzing All the Evidence
Means, motive and opportunity all come together in this culminating activity that encourages students to put all of the puzzle pieces together and finally solve the Cookie Jar Mystery!
Recommended Supplies for a Class of 30:
1 x Cookie Jar Instructor’s Guide – Available with download
30 x Cookie Jar Student Books – Available with download
1 x Cookie Jar photos and handouts – Available with download
20 x Foam plates
15 x Student scissors
130 x Plastic cups
1 x Isopropyl alcohol (90%)
1 x Packing Tape
1 x Box of toothpicks
36 x Pencils
1 x 2,000 mL Beaker
15 x Permanent markers
15 x Rolls of transparent tape
15 x Rulers
20 x Hand lenses
15 x Plastic tweezers
50 x Coffee filters
16 x Plastic zip top bags
16 x Plastic spoons
1 x Vinegar
1 x Iodine
1 x Plastic Dropper
100 x Plastic straws (coffee stirrers)
1 x Container of salt
15 x Measuring spoon set
1 x White powder samples (ex: suspect 1 = salt, suspect 2 = powdered sugar, suspect 3 = cornstarch, suspect 4 = baking soda, crime scene sample = cornstarch)
3 x Suspect pens set (ex: suspect 1 = ballpoint, suspect 2 = Pentel rolling writer, suspect 3 = expo wet erase, suspect 4 = Pilot V5/V7)
1 x Plastic bag for Bite slides
100 x Chromatography paper
1 x Box of paper clips
100 x Wooden splints
50 x Black paper squares
50 x Portion cups
20 x Dropper bottles
31 x Styrofoam cups
16 x 250 mL Beakers
50 x Disposable gloves, pairs
1 x Dish soap
1 x Simulated blood and anti-sera (ex: approx. 20mL each of: suspect 1 = AB+, suspect 2 = B-, suspect 3 = A+, suspect 4 = O-, crime scene sample = A+, Anti-A serum, Anti-B serum, Anti-Rh serum)
50 x Blood exam trays
31 x Fingerprinting ink strips
31 x Ink towelettes (wet wipes)
1 x Black fiber samples (ex: fiber 1 = linen, fiber 2 = polyester, fiber 3 = cotton, fiber 4 = wool, crime scene fiber = linen – approx. 2” squares)
1 x Hair samples (ex: suspect 1 = blond, suspect 2 = curly black, suspect 3 = brown, suspect 4 = brown, crime scene sample = brown, same as suspect 3)
1 x Pollen samples (ex: suspect 1 = lycododium, suspect 2 = bee pollen, suspect 3 = ground turmeric, suspect 4 = mustard powder, crime scene sample = lycopodium)