Forensic Science Activity for Kids: The Incredible Cookie Caper

Learn how to Use Forensic Science to Crack the Case!

Oh no! A crime has been committed at Orlando Science Center! Our staff were going to share some delicious cookies but they were stolen. Can you help us solve The Incredible Cookie Caper so we can catch the culprit?

 

Together, we are going to crack this case by learning about some of the forensic skills that real life spies and detectives use to figure out the most complex of mysteries.

 

Download our clue card so you can follow along as we go! You can also use it to draw your own card.

 

Cookie Caper Clue Card

 

 

To find out who stole the cookies, we're going to need to examine the clues left behind at the crime scene by using forensic science which means applying scientific methods and processes to solving crimes.

 

Forensic scientists can come from a wealth of backgrounds with specialties ranging from DNA and botany to dentistry and tool marks and so much more. 

We're going to use the following information to solve The Incredible Cookie Caper!

  1. Motives and alibis
    A motive is a reason someone might do something, or a motivator for them to do something. An alibi is a piece of evidence that seeks to prove that person could not have been somewhere when an event took place. In our case, we are looking for reasons that our suspects could not have possibly taken the cookies from the cookie jar.
  2. Fiber analysis
    We've discovered that some fibers were left at the scene of the crime. By analyzing the fibers, we should be able to determine what material they came from and if there are any other clues to help us, like what color the fibers are.
  3. Fingerprinting
    Fingerprint patterns are very unique so when they are left behind and can be collected properly, they're almost like a calling card! See what was left behind on the cookie jar and match the patterns to the suspects.
  4. Footprints
    In investigations detectives might find a footprint in the mud or something similar and could pour plaster into the shoe print and make an impression. Forensic scientists have access to huge databases full of footprints from shoes of all different brands and sizes. Even though people may have the same types of shoes, factors like weight, height, and more could affect their shoe print and be studied to narrow down suspects.

 

So, can you help us figure out who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

 


This Science Live! stage show was developed by Orlando Science Center staff and premiered in the Spring 2020 traveling exhibit Top Secret: License to Spy which was created and designed by Scitech and produced by Imagine Exhibitions.

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Sampling – Observing Animal Behavior

When scientists study animals, they observe their behavior through sampling, a special research technique that helps them notate what the animals are doing. They may be looking for information about the amount of time an animal spends doing something, how much space in the habitat an animal uses, what animals like to hang out together, or finding new behaviors. This technique can be used in the wild to learn about natural animal behaviors or in zoos to learn about the animals’ welfare.

 

 

Some different types of behavior sampling include:

 

  • Ad libitum sampling: writing down anything that seems interesting or important about one animal or a group of animals over a period of time.
  • Focal sampling: watching one animal for a set length of time and writing down everything the animal does with the time noted.
  • Scan sampling: watching one animal or a group of animals and writing down what they are doing at a certain interval of time (every 30 seconds, every 5 minutes, etc.)

 


 

Try observing your pet for a day! Here’s how:

 

You will need:

  1. Something to write on.
  2. Something to write with.
  3. An animal (or a few animals) – if you don’t have a pet, try observing an animal live camera feed on www.explore.org!

 

 

What to do:

  • Decide on what type of sampling you are going to try. Think about how much time you want to spend observing. To learn the most about your pet, you could try scan sampling – observe them once an hour all day and note their behavior.
  • Create a behavior key. You won’t have time to write everything down as it is happening! Create your own shorthand for the most common behaviors your pet or pets might do.
  • Start observing! Be sure to watch the clock to notate the time of behaviors.
  • Finished? Analyze the behavior you recorded! Does your dog spend most of their time looking out the window? Maybe you can set up their bed next to a window so they can enjoy it! Does your cat like to hide under tables? Maybe you can set up a sitting area with a canopy to make them feel safe!

 

 

What Next?

You can help animal researchers around the world by sampling behavior or even simply counting or sorting animals! Scientists ask for help by doing community (or citizen) science projects where anyone can help by following simple instructions and entering data.

 

Check out this search engine to find a citizen science project that’s interesting to you: https://scistarter.org/finder

 

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DIY Rock Candy

While rock candy may be a tasty treat, the chemistry behind this candy makes for a great at-home experiment to do with children! Follow these directions to create your very own rock candy. All you’ll need are a few household items to become a chemist without leaving your kitchen! Recommended age range: 5+

 

Materials:

  • Five cups sugar
  • Two cups water
  • Two clean 16 oz jars
  • Food coloring
  • Flavoring extract
  • Stirring spoon
  • Medium sized pot
  • Stovetop
  • Two bamboo skewers
  • Four clothes pins
  • Measuring cups

Make a prediction! You’ll come back to this experiment each day for a week to check on your rock candy! What changes do you expect to see on the first day? How about the second day? What do you think your experiment will look like at the end?

 

Write down or draw your predictions and compare them to what you see during this experiment!

 


 

Step 1:  

  • Cut the skewers to the length of the jars. Wet them with water, leaving 1 ½ inches dry on one end of each skewer. Spoon sugar onto the damp skewers, rotating to coat evenly and then set aside to dry thoroughly.

Step 2-4:

  • Pour two cups of water into a pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner to medium / high heat.
  • Slowly begin to pour five cups of sugar into the water and stir continuously until dissolved. Once most of the sugar has been added, the mixture will become thicker and cloudy as the sugar breaks down
  • Once the mixture comes to a steady simmer / low boil, add in 2-3 drops of any desired flavoring (orange, pineapple, grape etc.) as well as 2-3 drops of food coloring and wait for the mixture to come to a low boil once more before removing from the heat. 

Step 5 & 6:

  • Let the rock candy mixture cool down in the pot before pouring it into the two mason jars. Help the process along by placing the jars in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  • Once the mixture is completely cool, place a dry sugary skewer into the center of the mixture with the 1 ½ inch uncoated end sticking out. Use a clothes pin to secure the skewer in place and rest the edges of the clothes pin along the top of the jar, keeping the skewer in the center of the liquid

Step 7:

  • Leave the jars on a counter top with a paper towel draped over the clothes pins and check on your rock candy creations each day for one week. You should notice crystals forming after just one day!

After the experiment, think deeper about the reactions you saw! Ask questions like:

  • What did you notice as you observed your experiment each day? What changes did you see?
  • Did anything in your experiment surprise you?
  • How long did it take to see crystals forming? Keep a log book or photo journal to keep track!
  • What would happen if you added more/less sugar to the mixture? Do the experiment again to find out!

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!