Plate Tectonics and People

Create Your Own Forensics Lab

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In this activity, I'd like you to create a forensic mineralogy lab or lesson. Make it short and simple (just one or two class periods in length). If you have big ideas for a longer, more involved project, that is fine—why not save that for the course capstone project (Lesson 8) when your assignment is to create a longer lesson?

An example to get you thinking

I made a really simple lab for an undergrad course in which students looked through a low-powered microscope at three samples of sand. One was synthetic sand from a playground sandbox, one was pure quartz with a very narrow grain size ordered from the US Silica Company, and one came from a beach in North Carolina. The students had to figure out which sample was which based on their observations. I had them make some drawings of the grains, and then make educated guesses about the mineralogy with the right reference books at their disposal.


  1. Write up your lesson plan. Your lesson plan should include the following:
    • A brief overview of what will be taught and why. This overview should include a statement about the background information students will need to know in order to complete your lab successfully.
    • A set of learning objectives. (What will your students know or be able to do at the end of your lesson?)
    • A description of your plan. (What will the students do?)
    • A list of necessary materials. (Feel free to be creative here. This is basically a hypothetical assignment, so if you think you need some equipment or other materials that you don't have immediate access to, don't let that stop you from including it!)
    • A list of deliverables. (What will the students turn in? How will you know if they learned what you wanted them to learn?) Note: You need to include a "key" or set of answers to any follow-up questions or other material students will hypothetically turn in. That will help me assess the accuracy of the science you are presenting and it will also give me a clue about the level of thinking you expect from your students.
    • An evaluation rubric. (So that another teacher can assess the students in the manner that you intended.)
  2. Save an electronic version of your activity and name it like this:

    L5_forensicslab_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or your file extension).

    For example, former Cardinals outfielder and hall of famer Stan "The Man" Musial would name his file "L5_forensicslab_sfm6_musial.doc"

Submitting your work

  • Upload your lesson plan file to the Canvas assignment "Forensics Lab" by the due date specified on the first page of this lesson.

Grading rubric

Note on Grading: I am interested in the scientific accuracy of your exercise. I am not going to base my grade on whether you have constructed a lesson plan in some special way (as long as all the components listed above are there). My assumption is that those of you who are teachers already know how to write a lesson plan. For those who are not teachers, I am not going to instruct you on correct lesson-plan making here. However, I am a scientist, so if the facts are not right, or could use clarification, I can assist with that.

  • An "A" forensics lesson is complete, clear, and organized. It contains all the components listed above. The science is accurate. I can follow your instructions in the way that you intended without a lot of guesswork (It's fine if part of the lab involves making students guess and hypothesize. I'm talking about whether your directions are clear or not). The lesson is well-designed and would elicit the appropriate amount of thinking and interpretation on the part of the intended audience. Your lesson shows independent thinking.
  • A "B" forensics lesson is like that of an "A" project, except that its directions may not be clear enough that I can follow them without having to guess a little bit about your exact intentions. A "B" write-up is complete and contains all the components listed above.
  • A "C" forensics lesson may have clarity problems, leading me to have to guess how to follow your instructions. A "C" write-up may also be incomplete with some of the assignment components missing. The science may not be accurate.
  • A "D" forensics lesson has such badly written directions that I can't even begin to guess how to follow your instructions. A "D" write-up may be significantly incomplete and it may contain gross factual errors.