Free Home Forensic Science Labs During the COVID-19 Crisis

Realizing the need to serve and give-back to the community during this unprecedented crisis, has created several instructional blocks of science projects related to solving crimes (CSI), all using household items. We are foregoing the usual protective gloves and/or masks normally utilized for conservation and practical purposes being that these experiments are conducted at home.  Click on each of the lab links to take you to the instructional videos. In each lab section, there will be a list of materials that you will need for each lab.  All of these videos should be  supervised and set-up by a parent. 

There is no need to register.  Just click on the link.  Begin with the first lab and move to the last one.  This program is geared and suggested for Students 10-17 years old.  Feel free to pause the video at any point if the instructor is moving too quickly.

Many of the labs meet components of the requirement for the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) Fingerprinting Merit Badge and the Bear Elective Forensics Adventure (BSA Volunteer Member Number ID 13050003).  Contact your Scout District/Unit leader, in advance of conducting the labs and coordinate with that leader and confirm, in part, what qualifies for the aforementioned badges. 

Please consider liking and sharing each YouTube link once you complete each Lab.  We expect creating each lab is contributing our small part to this crisis and will help a few get through this crisis and gleen some useful educational tools of CSI and the sciences.  Enjoy the science behind solving crimes using science with these ‘At Home Science Projects’.

Lastly, correctly answer the questions at the end of this training block and get a 10% discount to any of our future classes.  You must submit your worksheet (at the end of this page) and have a passing score of 80% in order to qualify for the discount.

Lab 1: Wash your hands and Locard’s Exchange Principle 

After watching the below lab video, practice washing your hands for 20 seconds (singing the happy birthday or the ABC song twice).  Wash your hands before and after each of the below labs to minimize any contamination. Review the link by the CDC on handwashing – CDC Hand Washing Link

Locard’s Exchange Principle Video 1:

Locard’s Exchange Principle Video 2:

Contamination whether we are speaking about a crime scene or a virus transfer, does not have to be a direct transfer.  It can be indirect and transferred through an intermediary or vector, as shown by this sandpaper transfer example.

Locard’s Exchange Principle:  Students will need a pair of scissors, two small pieces of sand paper, two small pieces of different colored felt or a wool sock.

To prevent this exchange at a Crime Scene or for the remainder of the below exercises, wear latex or nitrile gloves to minimize this exchange or transfer.  Because these items are in dire need by the medical profession, you can simulate wearing them.  

LAB 2:  Interview and Interrogation

People contact trace

Students can print (or cut and paste) the below form and record all those that you have come in contact with the last time you were at school including family, friends, teachers, coaches….  Then do the same for all of the members in your family starting with your mother and father, and then each sibling.  How many people have you interviewed and how many ‘contacts’ did each family member have?  What is the total number of contacts for you, and through your family and what is the percentage of contacts per each family member (you vs. overall number of family contacts)? 

Contact Trace Form

LAB 3: Recover and Identify your own Fingerprint Category Type (Meets many of the criteria for BSA Merit badge on Fingerprinting; and meets BSA Forensics Bear Elective, Requirement 3A)

FP Types

Fingerprinting : Students will need a pencil, 2 sheets of paper, scotch tape,  Sharpe Marker, and a ruler.


After you capture every fingerprint on each hand, classify them into one of the three classification types listed above: Loop, Arch or Whorl.  Most people have Loops (65% of us) while the balance of us have Whorls (30%) while only 5% of the population have Arches. 


  1.  Once you classify each fingerprint, note it within each box of each finger (you will have different patterns on each finger). 
  2. If this is a family exercise and all of your brothers and sisters have printed and classified each of their fingers, create a Spreadsheet and divide the number of Loops by the overall number of prints to create a percentage for Loop frequency. 
  3. Do the same (as step 2) for Whorls and Arches. 
  4. Compare to the classification categories to see if your family mirrors the normal classification percentages of each fingerprint category.

Lab 4: Dusting for Fingerprints:

Students will need: a piece of Charcoal (2 Tablespoons worth), grater, 1 Tablespoon of Cornstarch, packing tape, small Ziplock bag, paper towels, rolling pin, a drinking glass, index card and pen.

Lab 5: Make your own Magnifying Glass

magnifying glass

Magnifying Glass Class:  Students will need a pair of scissors, Sharpe Marker, plastic bottle and a small amount of water.

Although there were historical accounts of the Egyptian’s using gems as magnification tools in 37 AD, the Magnifying Glass was created in the mid 1200’s by British National, Roger Bacon.  His work on development of this concept eventually gave rise to the monocular, Benjamin Franklin’s Bifocals, the microscope, the compound microscope, binoculars, and every like-type of ‘enhanced vision tool’, up to the Hubble Telescope.  Without this first step by Roger Bacon, tools we use today would not have developed along the timeline they did!

Lab 6: Recover your own Fingerprint using Cyanoacrylate Fuming Technique/Method 

print green

Fingerprinting :  Students will need a large Tupperware container and its lid. Duct tape, a very small Tupperware container, a heating source such as a coffee heater or light bulb, crazy glue, tin foil, some water, and a glass slide or smooth surfaced shot glass (one that your parents don’t want anymore).

After you recover the fingerprint, put it on a flat surface and examine it and look at the ridge detail with your homemade magnifying glass from Lab#5.  The below photo of the white fingerprints on the microscope slides are what your fumed print(s) should look like, as some of our previous students have proficiently demonstrated.

cyano acrqlate pic

Although their are long standing accounts with the Ancient Chinese using the fingerprints to sign documents, as well as the use of fingerprints for the same reason in Persia in the 14th Century, the understanding and use of ‘modern day’ Fingerprinting occurred in the late 1600’s.  Law Enforcement previously used Anthropometry and the Bertillon to identify individuals then began to switch to fingerprinting for identification in 1903 with the advent of the Will West/ William West case at Leavenworth Penitentiary.  Take a CSI CLass and find out more about fingerprinting.

Will West case

Lab 7: Identification of Unknown Powders: (Meets BSA Forensics Bear Elective, Requirement 3B)

Forensic Characteristic Identification and Examination :  Students will need 12 small Tupperware containers or tin foil to fashion as weigh boats. Also, a 1/2 Tsp measuring spoon, 6 index cards, magnifying glass, sheet of paper, Sharpe marker, ruler, pencil, Corn Starch, Baking Soda, Salt, Sugar, Powdered Sugar, Water and Vinegar.

Lab 8: Chromatography (Meets BSA Forensics Bear Elective, Requirement 3A)

Chromatography Experiment :  Students will need a sheet of paper, 5 different water soluble or non-permanent magic markers (different brands i.e. Crayola, Staedtler, Walldeca, Cra-Z-Art), 2 coffee filters (white), a ruler, 6 paperclips, water and 6 drinking glasses.

Chromatography Experiment Results:

While moving the display two of the strips fell and were misplaced on the paper.  This doesn’t change the results of the test.  It is clear that one of these strips match the Kidnappers note written in the pen depicted in the center of the photo.  If you are still not sure, email us and we will share the correct answer with you.

Lab 9: DNA Extraction

Students will need: a bottle of water, strawberries, small mixing bowl, tweezers, salt, rubbing alcohol, dish soap, ziplock bag, coffee filter, 1/3 measuring cup, 1 Tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, a tall drinking glass.

Strawberry DNA Extraction Results:

Lab 10: Statistics / Frequency and Distribution

Frequency & Distribution Experiment #1:  Students will need bag of Skittles and a computer with Excel, or similar statistical program.  What is the distribution of each color (how often does that color occur in the bag compared to the overall number of Skittles in the bag)?  Compare your results with the 14 Oz bag that we utilized for this lab.  Is the distribution frequency of color the same in a different sized bag? What about the same sized bag?

Frequency & Distribution Experiment #2:  Students will need a large bag of M&M’s and a computer with Excel, or similar statistical program.  Compare the results against the Skittles, input the data on the spreadsheet and examine what patterns arise, what the similarities and contrasts between the two data sets?  What conclusions can we draw?

Lab 11:  Entomology and Time of Death

Bugs TOD

Students will need to print the above picture of insects, and a pair of scissors.  Students will want to take notes on this very short lecture that will give you clues on which insects arrive and in what order.

Lab 12:  Reconstruction of a Time Line

You are a Detective that is assigned to reconstruct a timeline of the recently deceased, Mr. Avon Barksdale using the receipts found on his person (in his wallet) at the scene of the crime. 


  1.  Develop a time line after cutting up the below receipts.  Which is the first location that we have a record of? Where do we know Mr. Barksdale went on the days leading up to his untimely death?
  2. Explain what you would do with each receipt (in one sentence) and identify what would be the next step of your investigation after examination of each receipt?  [Feel free to copy and paste (or print) the below picture onto a printable word document and cut out each receipt]
  3. Map Mr. Barksdales movements.  What does this tell you about Mr. Barksdale?

All Fake Receipts

Students will need to print the above receipts out and a pair of scissors.

After you develop a timeline of the deceased, Avon Barksdale, map his movements by address or business name  (ie 1. 2. 3…) on the day of his death using the map below.  Use a larger map (found anywhere on-line), to map his movements on the days prior to his death.

receipt map

Lab 13:  Footprint or Tire Track Casting

Students will need: planting soil (or a suitable dirt space in the yard),  a ziplock bag, scale, plaster of paris, 16 oz water bottle. 

While pouring (after measuring and mixing the correct quantities) the plaster of paris should be poured on an even surface (so it doesnt ‘run’) to ensure even uniformity of the casting.  You will have better results if the mixture is the same thickness for the entire casting (you can step in a shoebox filled with dirt to have great results)

The Footprint Casting Results:

Lab 14:  Additional Labs/Case Reviews-  [can be located following the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Website]


Additional Labs and Games for Kids can be found on the FBI’s website. Take a look at the 4 Adventures that share international cases.  Read the adventures and ask yourself what would be your next step of the investigation, if you were the one assigned to investigate.  There are links on this link that will also tell you ‘how’ they investigate some crimes.  This is a fascinating website so we hope you will explore it.  You will need Adobe Flash Player to take advantage of the interactive activities.  This link will take you to the Text version of the website.  Backspace over the last section of the below address to the next to last forward slash and you will be able to access the interactive page.

Lab 15:  Bonus Brain Teasers / Science – Math -Logic

A.  How many 4 cent stamps are in a dozen?

B.  How many Punctuation Marks are there in the English Language.  Name them? (we gave you four in this sentence!)

C.  If you drop a steel ball, would it fall more rapidly through water at 20 degrees or water at 60 degrees?  Why?

steel ball

D.  When you take two apples from three, what do you have?


E.  How many times can you subtract 2 from the numeral 21?


Take the below quiz for a 10% discount to our next class

Quiz On Line

Email us your quiz (preferably with correct answers on them) at the time of registration for a class so we can apply your 10% discount (


If you have questions/comments, or need help with the answers to any of the above labs, please have your parents email us ( and we will do our best to explain, define or help you get through each laboratory.    We hope you can join us for an in depth class sometime in the future!


Please LIKE US on Facebook and keep up-to-date on class locations we are adding all of the time!