Written in Bone: Forensic Anthropology (5 Day Mini-research Project)

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SWBAT identify the height of an individual based on the length of their femur, differentiate between male and female bones and then create a digital presentation that compares and contrasts the work of forensic anthropologists to what is shown on television.

Big Idea

Anthropology isn't just for learning about ancient civilizations. Learn how forensic anthropologists help solve modern day crimes.

Day 1: Engage

5 minutes

I start each class period in this unit with a warm-up activity that targets forensic science concepts and other skills (observation, problem-solving, etc.) Not only does this get the students in the frame of mind necessary to address the field of forensics, but it also introduces key vocabulary they will use throughout the unit in a more relevant way. In addition, this activity allows students to refine their research skills as they perform quick internet searches to find the correct answers. By using the attached weekly Answer Sheet* and passing it out as they enter the classroom every Monday morning, not only can I save paper, but I can also provide a routine that allows students to begin without prompting, waiting for paper, or asking things such as, "What do we do?" and, "Where do we write our answers?"

For this particular lesson, I have decided to utilize a Trivia Challenge*, in which students use their knowledge of forensics and their research skills to answer an assortment of trivia questions.

After providing about 2-3 minutes to look for the answers, we go over them together and discuss the information provided. I help students to define key terms and providing background knowledge necessary to help students understand the questions. However, I do not spend as extended period of time on this portion, as it is just meant to be an activator and not necessary to understanding the core of the lesson at this time.

*Challenges and answer sheet courtesy of http://sciencespot.net/Pages/classforscistarters.html

Day 1: Explore

45 minutes

I start the lesson by writing the term, "forensic anthropologist" on the board. I ask the students to take 1 minute of think time and to think about what the two words mean, visualize them in their head,  then synthesizing a conception of what this person might do for a living. After think time is up, I call on volunteers to define the two terms and to share their ideas and inferences.

Next, I have students access the Blendspace* materials (below), which I have linked to my class website. I pass out two double-sided copies of the note-taking form (courtesy of freeology.com) to each student.  I instruct students to browse through all of the materials* and to use one block of the note-taking form to take notes for each resource.

For those who are not as experienced at note-taking, I frame the assignent by explaining that I expect them to write:

  • new terms and their definitions
  • information they find particularly interesting
  • questions they have, as well as any answers they find to those questions
  • connections to what we have studied about forensics so far, as well as connections to other media or real life events
  • information that describes the tasks and processes completed by a forensic anthropologist

I provide at least 30 minutes (or the rest of the class period, if time permits) for students to view the materials and take notes. Before students finish for the day, I direct them to use the lines at the bottom of the page to summarize the main points they learned from their research.




Day 2: Explain

15 minutes

I start today's portion of the lesson by having students work independently to complete a RSQC2 (recall, summarize, question, connect, comment) graphic organizer on the material we covered the day before. Once students have thoroughly reviewed the material through the RSQC2, they will discuss their thoughts using a Think Pair Share model.

By this time, students have had ample time to work with and review the material, as well as form any new questions or connections they have thought of since they were first exposed to the new learning.

Days 2 and 3: Elaborate

50 minutes

In order to learn more about how Forensic Anthropologists conduct their work, I pass out and have students conduct the two Bone Labs (adapted from the work of by Renee Parker, RN from Hixson High School). Students will work in their table groups to complete one lab per day over the next two days. They may choose which one they would like to complete first. As students work, I circulate through the room, observing student work and facilitating discussion among students. I ask the students questions, such as:

  • Why would this investigation be helpful to finding solving crimes in the past?
  • How might this process be revised to deal with a current crime?
  • What new technologies might make this process easier?
  • Why do you think it is important to measure more than once?
  • How would this relate to... be different from...?
  • How is this process similar to other methods we have studied?

After students complete both labs, we return to the RSQC2 form and they discuss, at their table groups, any new information they learned, new connections they could make, or answers to questions they wrote on Day 2.

Days 4 and 5: Evaluate

50 minutes

As a final assessment of the students' understanding of forensic anthropology, students will select one episode of the series, "Bones", to watch on their own. They will then compose a digital presentation that compares and contrasts the events in the episode to the real life work of a  forensic anthropologist. Students will get to select their digital presentation media. (Google Slides and PowerPoint are acceptable, but creativity is encouraged!)

The presentation should contain at least six clips (3 similarities and 3 differences) from the episode as well as an explanation for each as to why each does or does not represent authentic investigation techniques. Students are assessed by the Powerpoint Presentation Rubric from The Fay School.