Tour a Crime Lab

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SWBAT conduct web research to describe the functions of a crime lab. SWBAT describe the education and experience needed to become a crime lab investigator.

Big Idea

Take a virtual tour of a state-of-the-art working crime lab!


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 Video Challenge entitled, "3D Imaging"* in which students watch a short video clip about forensics and follow up by answering an assortment of trivia questions.

After providing about 2-3 minutes to choose the correct 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


5 minutes

Now that we have explored many different areas in forensic science, I would like for my students to see how these are brought together in the crime lab for the purpose of solving crimes. I can think of no better way to do this than to allow my students the opportunity to visit a working crime lab and see investigators in action. However, due to school budget constraints and the sensitivity of evidence in a lab, this is not a practical option, so I decided to do the next best thing - create a virtual field trip. Virtual field trips (VFT's) are great alternatives to traditional field trips because they can allow students to experience places all over the world without ever leaving the classroom walls. In addition, thousands can be found online for free! By adding a simple assessment piece to a virtual tour, teachers can create a great learning experience that allows students to gain relevant and authentic knowledge about a place they've never been and connect it to the content they are learning in the classroom. In addition, VFT's can be completed by individual students, groups, or even whole class, which keeps a lack of technology in the classroom from being a huge problem, as it can be with other online learning activities.

In order to provide my students with this type of opportunity, I did a great deal of "digging" and ended up finding a terrific virtual tour of a new Forensics Lab in Edmond, Oklahoma. I took some time to familiarize myself with the facility by taking the tour and doing some additional research. In this lesson, I allow students to work in pairs to complete the tour and discuss/answer the questions as they explore each area. 

I introduce the activity by explaining to the students that today is Field Trip Day! There will be a mix of confusion and excitement, but the announcement hooks them in, they immediately want to know more. While some get a little disappointed when I clarify that we are taking a virtual field trip, once I explain where we will be visiting and what the students will see, the anticipation quickly returns!

I pass out the Virtual Field Trip Guide and allow students to choose partners. I remind them to choose someone who will help them to do their very best work, and provide a few strong suggestions for students who select social buddies rather than study buddies. However, even with that, I do allow them to select their partners, reminding them that their choices will help make or break their progress and their grade. (See my reflection for more information.)


60 minutes

As students work through the Virtual Field Trip, they are encouraged to discuss their findings with their partner prior to writing their answers. Not only will them help them form a proficient response prior to putting in writing, but one student may observe something that was missed by their partner, and this will spark some great discourse. I circulate throughout the room, answering questions as needed and providing any support they may need.


10 minutes

After students have completed the virtual tour, I have them work with their partner to access YouTube* and search "crime lab tour". This will take them to a list of several video tours of crime labs throughout the country. Once they reach the site, they may select up to 3 different videos to view. After watching, they will compare/contrast the labs on the videos to the one they toured today.

I have each group of students briefly introduce the crime lab they viewed, including the name and the city/state it is located, and to share the similarities and differences they noticed from the lab in Oklahoma. As they listen to each other, I ask them to make a list of any generalizations they can make about the labs we discuss. We discuss those the generalizations after all students have shared.

*If your school or district blocks YouTube, you could use TeacherTube or SchoolTube as a safe alternative.


5 minutes

Students turn in their Virtual Field Trip Guide at the end of class. This serves as an assessment of student understanding. While reading through their work, I am looking for details and specifics as to how the ares of the lab relate to the different types of investigation we have completed throughout our forensics unit, as well as proper use of terminology that has been introduced in this unit.