Toolmarks Lesson Plan


1. To introduce students to the scientific method.
2. To introduce students to lab procedures.
3. To provide students with an opportunity to solve a problem using experimentation, observation, and the scientific method.

Student Objectives:

1. Students will be able to list and describe the six steps of the scientific method.
2. Students will be able to describe lab procedures and rules.
3. Students will be able to determine who committed a crime based on the evidence and their experimentation.

Materials Needed:

1. Lecture Notes
2. Lab Handouts
3. Homework
4. Six wood squares per group (three with known samples, one from the crime scene, and two with no marks)
5. Crowbar - one per group
6. Hammer - one per group
7. Screwdriver - one per group
8. Dental plaster, silly putty or play dough - dental plaster is recommended
9. Popsicle sticks
10. Peanut Butter Meltaways - optional for "reward" after completing the lab

Anticipatory Set:

1. Journal entry or Warm-up question: "List the steps you need to take when solving a problem with experimentation."
2. Set up the crime scene - "Over the weekend, someone broke into the school's cafeteria and stole the peanut butter meltaways, leaving no snack for today's lunch. Marks were left on the outside door which could lead to the capture of the peanut butter meltaway thief. Find the thief, and you will also find the peanut butter meltaways!"


1. Complete anticipatory set as described. (Day 1)
2. Handout lecture notes and discuss the scientific method and toolmarks.
3. Show students examples of toolmarks on the wooden squares. (If there is no time for this on day one, begin here on day two.)
4. Handout the lab papers. (Day 2)
5. Model the lab by explaining each step and then demonstrating for students.
6. Allow groups to work at their own pace, supervising to ensure they stay on task and follow procedures.
7. Near the end of class, instruct students to finish what they are doing and to clean up.
8. Handout homework at the door as students leave.


1. Learning support and lower ability students may be provided with a modified lecture note handout that requires less writing.
2. The lab work does not need to be adapted because the groups are mixed ability.


1. Day 1 - As a mini-quiz, have students write down the steps to the scientific method. This "quiz" can be used toward the final grade or as extra credit points.
2. Day 2 - On a piece of paper, have students list the steps of the scientific method and then describe how the lab followed these steps.

Reinforcement Activity:

1. Students will conduct a lab that will reinforce the lecture information.
2. Students will have a homework assignment that uses information obtained from the lab.

Student Evaluation:

1. Students will be evaluated by their lab handout and homework.
2. Students will be evaluated by the final unit project.

Lesson Evaluation:

1. Students will be expected to receive an 80% or higher on their lab and homework.
2. The lesson will also be evaluated at the end of the unit. Students will be expected to receive an 80% or higher on the final lab report.