2013 Teacher Workshop CSI Unit Ideas

During the last session of our 2013 CSI Teacher Training and Professional Certification, teachers were sorted into groups to incorporate their CSI knowledge into CSI units for their own classrooms. These teachers created a myriad of ideas for excellent project-based CSI units applying to all grade levels. Since workshop participants were kind enough to share their ideas with us, we thought we’d pass these ideas along to the greater CSI and STEM communities. Here’s what they came up with:

I Am Not Who I Thought I Was

This unit is based on the recent case of Paul Fronczak, who discovered at age 50 that he is not related to his parents. In this unit students will “re-open” this case to help Paul discover who he really is. Activities such as DNA analysis, crime scene investigation, ear recognition, and others all apply to this unit.

Freshman Class Amazing Race – Case of Whodunit

This unit is designed to help teachers gain “buy in” from incoming freshman students. During this unit, the students will find out that the principal has gone missing and it’s up to them to solve the case. This unit pulls in many different classes and utilizes CSI skills required from each of the subjects. For example, the drama and/or art department can set up the crime scene, and math and science classes can utilize biometrics activities, fingerprint dusting, and DNA analysis. Once they solve the crime, students would then create a video presenting their conclusion to be voted on by the student body.

Case of the Stolen Exam Key

This unit also pulls in many different disciplines to allow students to solve the case of the stolen exam key. This two-day unit would be led by the forensics department, but would incorporate gait analysis in math classes, identification/translation of foreign language spoken by witness in language classes, and report write-ups in English department. This case will ultimately end in a mock trial.

Graffiti in the Restroom

This is another interdisciplinary whodunit case that solves the case of graffiti found in the restroom. Paper chromatography will feature into this crime, and the history of graffiti can be explored by history classes.

What Does the Perfect Crime Look Like?

This unit examines how criminals get caught. Common crimes will be researched, allowing math classes to conduct statistical analysis, English classes to do character development, and science classes to conduct related CSI activities. This unit can also incorporate other variables to allow students to consider other possible mechanisms for getting caught. Students will then develop realistic “perfect crimes” and present them.

Whodunit? Case of the Stolen Phone

A phone was stolen by a staff member. This unit limits the amount of instruction, and instead incorporates question only. During this 6 week group project, students have to come up with the suspect, turn in notes, graphs, charts, pictures and case files. Students will spend one day per week of class time on this project, and the different methods of CSI investigation learned in class will be incorporated into homework.

Whodunit? Missing Money at a Car Wash

Evidence for this unit includes a grainy video and a size 6 shoe print. The suspects are the students, and students need to determine which technique will be most effective in catching the suspect. Students must chose 3 techniques of all the techniques taught, create a report, and reenact the crime. This is a 2 week project, and students will work in groups of 3.

Whodunit? Destroyed Science Lab

A professor finds a crime scene at a destroyed science lab. Elementary students will collaboratively work together to collect fingerprints, conduct paper chromatography, interview suspects, etc. Many grades will be included, and younger grades will do the soil sample for Texas TEKS.

Found Object – Find the Owner

Students will find the owner of a found object using CSI techniques. Students will be placed in groups and decide which methods would best allow them to solve this mystery.

Whodunit? Coffee Half-full

A teacher comes back to find her coffee half full. This problem will incorporate interdisciplinary curriculum, and different teachers will do different things. This inquiry-based learning scenario will bring the  kids and teachers together.

Accident at School

This unit allows students to determine the cause of an accident at school based on evidence such as ice and skid marks. Science and math classes can work together to assess the situation, English classes can write-up the accident, social studies classes can talk about which laws will apply, and theater classes can recreate the accident.


Many thanks to all of our workshop participants for coming up with such wonderful unit ideas! Do you have additional ideas for incorporating CSI into your classroom? Tell us about it!

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