Missing Money Mystery - Teaching Tools

Missing Money Mystery - Teaching Tools

To help your teachers get off to a great start, Community Learning has created the following tutorials that demonstrate activity set-ups.

Lesson 1: Figuring Out Forensics - Organization and Observation

A mysterious "bag of stuff," and some peculiar coins launch learners on the trail of a fugitive from justice. Explore the power of description in this exciting introductory lesson.

Take your time as you work through the activities in this lesson. Activity 1, which seems deceptively simple, communicates the concept of properties and descriptive wording. Then move on to the coin activity to further practice these new techniques.


Check out the FBI’s website for kids.

How observant are you?   Can you find 9 people in this picture?

Play interactive memory and observation games .  Try “Spot the Difference”, “Test Your Memory”, and “Power of Observation”.

Lesson 2: Securing the Scene – Collecting Evidence

Wrongdoers, beware! Learners visit the scene of the crime and use real forensic techniques (such as triangulation) to begin the search for trace evidence that will point to a thief!

Use special care to keep learners out of the “crime scene” area and use the opportunity to underline how careless investigators can contaminate crime scenes. Encourage students to move methodically through the crime scene as they measure; in this lesson make the distinction between evidence and suspicions. 


Solve the mystery of the broken aquarium

Watch a crime!  Be a witness!  Then test your eyewitness skills with a crime scene quiz.

Check out many more forensics links.

Lesson 3: Powder Power - Solutions or Suspensions?

Don’t let our sneaky cash-snatcher get away! The plot thickens (and so do some solutions—or are they suspensions?) as students experiment with different mysterious white powders.

This lesson requires some extra “set-up” before it begins. Read through the set-up instructions carefully.


Learn how a chemical reaction happens.

What do you know about poisons

Learn a poison prevention song!

Take a tour to learn about chemicals around your house.  

Lesson 4: Natural or Not - Fiber Identification

Weave together the threads of a crime in an activity that allows learners to practice a proven technique in forensic fiber analysis. Then put on your deerstalker and set your Sherlockian sights on classifying the evidence. It's elementary, dear Watson! 

Have students practice using the tweezers and hand lenses before you begin the activity.


Learn about some history of the fabric industry.

Increase your knowledge about types of fibers by looking at microscopic images and diagrams.

Learn more about types of cloth and fibers from Science Olympiad

Lesson 5: Tracking the Tires - Tread Patterns

The plot thickens as Mr. Muggs asks his students to examine the strange pattern of tire tread evidence discovered outside his window. Can you figure out who rode the getaway bicycle?

This is a lesson in which you might want to practice the sequence of making tracks and recording the data so that you have a “working example” to show your students.


Learn all about bicycle safety.

Read about how impression evidence works.

Lesson 6: Digging for Dirt - Soil Samples

Another form of trace evidence gets the "detective treatment" in this fascinating lesson, as learners explore the work of forensic geologists and sort through soil samples, and chart their observations in their detective notebooks! 

Before starting the lab, ask students to examine their own clothing and shoes to see if there’s any evidence of where they have been (or what they had for breakfast!).

Forensic geology comes to the fore in this lesson; use this opportunity to point out that forensics has many specialties.


Try three fabulous activities to explore soil.

Discover  exactly how soil is a layer of our earth.

Read more about forensic soil analysis.

Lesson 7: Cast a Clue – Shoe Print Evidence

The guilty party had no idea what they had stepped in. Students analyze shoe prints left at the crime scene to determine if any of the suspects were there.

You should prepare for this lesson my making a shoe print of your own so that you have a "working example" to show to the students.


Watch some forensics episodes from PBS Kids. 

Read some notes on shoeprint technology.

Watch videos on the photographing and casting of shoe prints.

Look at a diagram of how shoeprints change with different types of movements.  

Lesson 8: Crack the Code - Cryptograms

It may not be quite as challenging as the DaVinci Code, but the coded message left on Mr. Mugg's desk just might point to a clever thief. Learners uncover many secrets of the alphabet (and of master criminals!) in this deciphering activity.

Students who are “quick” may easily finish ahead of others; encourage these students to develop their own codes and practice by writing their names or short messages to share with their partners.


Write a secret message and turn it into code. 

Learn beginner codes and secret writing techniques.

Try some cryptology activities from the NSA.

Read about the National Cryptologic Museum.

Lesson 9: Lifting Lips - Lip Prints

Does our crook have a crooked smile? Learners "lift," classify, and compare their own lip prints in order to unlock the patterns of this unique form of evidence. 

This lesson is also an opportunity to discuss fingerprints, and the difference between unique evidence and conclusive evidence. Unique evidence may point to one person, but it’s not always conclusive! Ask students for other sources of prints (such as hands and feet).


Learn about Forensic Dentistry.

Check out some great lip print pictures.

Discover more about the science of cheiloscopy (lip tracing).

Lesson 10: Proof in Profiling - DNA Identification

The case is nearly cracked when students compare strands of suspects' DNA, and begin to close in on the real culprit. This authentic investigatory procedure explores genetic markers.

Instructors are advised to read and completely understand this lesson before teaching it. DNA is a complex subject—but helping students understand it will go much more easily if you understand DNA yourself!


Try out several different genetics activities.

Learn what DNA ,chromosomes, and traits are.

Engage in an interactive lab to determine  a culprit based on DNA fingerprinting.

Learn more about DNA and forensics.

See what an actual DNA gel electrophoresis experiment looks like.

Lesson 11: Suspicious Statements: Means, Motive and Opportunity

Students take a careful look at the letters each suspect wrote in the beginning of the year to see any possible connections between their interests and the classroom crime.

Encourage the student investigators to take their time reading and analyzing the statements in this activity.  Each statement should be read through several times.


Learn about statement analysis skills.

Have you ever wondered how a lie detector works?

Learn how to tell if someone is being less than truthful.

Lesson 12: Case Closed: Analyzing the Evidence

Students test their analytical skills when all of the evidence is laid on the table—and will lead our detectives to point their collective fingers at the guilty party: mystery solved! 

Critical thinking gets a workout in Lesson 12. As you work, remind students that what they are doing in analysis is the same sort of thing they do in preparing an essay or writing a report: they gather disparate pieces of information and try to put it into a coherent whole.

This activity really tests brainpower and creativity. When the course is completed and the crime has been solved, don’t hesitate to issue a “Crime Investigator’s License” to your students.


Use your deductive reasoning to stop Hacker before he ruins Eco Haven.

Things are not always what they seem.  Try Lateral Thinking brain boosters.

Explore other science topics with The Black Hole Gang.