Dissection can help students make connections to a broad array of forensic science careers
Science

Connect students to forensic science careers with dissection

While there’s plenty to learn from listening to lectures or examining images in textbooks, dissection allows students to take a hands-on approach to learning and change how they think about science. 

When dissecting, students can see, touch, and explore the inner systems of animals to gain a better understanding of anatomical and physiological structures and functions while gaining a better understanding of how the human body works. They will see for themselves how the internal structures of some smaller animals can be likened to the human body. 

Along with providing students valuable hands-on learning experience, you can tie lessons to the real world by connecting dissection to a wide range of forensic science careers. Keep reading to learn how. 

Connect growing forensic science careers to dissection 

Some students in your class may already have an interest in forensic science because of the popularity of true crime shows on Investigation Discovery and scripted crime shows like the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise. Other students may not have an interest right away but can become interested during dissection lessons. You never know what might spark their interest. 

And now is a great time for them to explore forensic science careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that by 2030, careers in forensic science are projected to grow 16 percent. 

For interested students, there are many career options for them to choose from. Take the time before they start dissecting to talk about the wide range of careers in forensic science, including the following:  

  • Forensic scientist 
  • Forensic technician 
  • Crime scene investigator 
  • Forensic investigator 
  • Forensic medical examiner 
  • Forensic entomologist 
  • Forensic toxicologist 
  • Computer forensics examiner 
  • Criminalist 
  • DNA analyst 

While dissection alone won’t teach students all the skills they will need to know for these forensic science careers, it can get them thinking about their futures and have them seriously considering what they want to do. 

Dissecting will also assist in the development of cross-curricular skills that are needed for careers in a variety of fields. They will learn to be precise and accurate while building critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills. They will communicate and document observations, use mathematical equations and applied sciences, and use technology for additional research. The use of dissection tools can also help develop fine motor skills. 

A forensics kit can be a good way to help students better understand the subject.

Connect dissection lessons to real-world problems 

Dissection isn’t easy for everyone. But imagine if you give students motivation to look past what’s in front of them to focus on finding evidence to identify remains or to solve a murder. When you combine dissection with hands-on activities, you can motivate your students to look at dissecting in whole new ways. 

By providing students with more purpose when dissecting, the more engaged they will be. Instead of just dissecting to better understand anatomy and physiology, you can have students dissect fetal pigs to make connections to forensic science careers. 

To introduce forensic science, use this forensics kit as a solid foundation for students to better understand the subject. This full course immerses them in a series of “whodunnit” scenarios such as a classroom break-in, an interrogation, and a vending machine caper. They will have to use forensic equipment and apply problem-solving skills to find evidence during these scenarios. 

Other activities include fingerprinting, working with simulated blood patterns, fabric testing, plaster casts, and more. To make the scenarios more immersive and challenging, use fetal pigs as victim stand-ins. This one activity can spark students’ interest and prepare them for deeper investigations. 

To make the scenarios more immersive and challenging, use fetal pigs as victim stand-ins.

Here are some more ideas for exploring forensic science careers with your students: 

Forensic pathology 

It’s important for students to accurately assess even the subtlest traces of evidence. One wrong cut or action from a medical examiner could mean a criminal walks free in our legal system. 

This type of high-stakes dissection can be stressful, and sometimes experts make mistakes. Students need to understand how challenging it really can be to discover a cause of death. 

The Cause of Death Autopsy Investigation Kit introduces students to that process in an accessible way.

Activity idea: The Cause of Death Autopsy Investigation Kit introduces students to that process in an accessible way. Students follow the steps a medical examiner would take as they conduct an actual forensic autopsy. 

During this experiment, three preserved fetal pigs represent victims with stab wounds, gunshot wounds, and a broken back. Students must use the scientific method in real-life applications as they investigate the demise of these three little pigs. They dissect and remove each internal organ one by one, looking at the color, size, and other characteristics while documenting everything they observe. They then draw conclusions on whether the death was natural, criminal, or accidental based on the evidence found. 

Forensic anthropology 

In forensic anthropology, students examine compromised human remains or skeletons to find answers to questions. Forensic anthropologists working in the field can examine human skeletal remains and their surroundings to determine who died, how they died, and how long ago they died. 

While students won’t be dissecting human cadavers or studying real skeletal remains in the classroom, you can give them preserved owl pellets to examine instead. By examining owl pellets, students can develop the same critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills that forensic anthropologists possess. 

With the owl pellet kit, students will analyze owl pellets and observe skeletal features to identify the prey consumed by owls.

Activity idea: With this owl pellet kit, students will analyze owl pellets and observe skeletal features to identify the prey consumed by owls. They can also conduct studies to evaluate animal populations within the owl’s habitat, make calculations to estimate the biomass of the prey, and more. 

Forensic toxicology  

Students need to understand that there’s more to dissection than just dissecting. Dissection is also observing, taking notes, and being aware of the body systems to know what is and is not supposed to be present. When determining the cause of someone’s death, medical examiners analyze biological samples for the presence of toxins from drugs, alcohol, or poison. These biological samples may include urine, hair, blood samples, and more. 

If a medical examiner is unaware of what substance is inside someone, they might need to test to determine if it’s normal and if so, is the quantity normal or does it exceed the permissible level. 

Activity idea: While in the lab, give students this toxicology kit to gain knowledge of how over-the-counter drugs, controlled drugs, and illegal drugs may act as toxins in the body. Students will perform presumptive chemical tests on drugs and poisons, identify unknown samples based on chemical test results, and examine urine for evidence of heavy metal poison using chromatography. 

With this other toxicology kit, students can use different techniques to determine the presence of alcohol, drugs, and pain medication in simulated urine samples. Students can apply the skills they’ve learned from dissection during this activity and make the connections between dissecting and toxicology. 

Forensic entomology 

Accidents happen and sometimes animals are victims of accidents. A deceased animal on the side of the road, for example, can attract maggots. If a dissection was later performed and maggots were discovered inside of the body, a forensic entomologist could take samples to establish the stage of maggot development to determine the time of death. 

Activity idea: Have students turn into forensic entomologists themselves with this investigation kit. This kit allows students to work in groups to process different evidence from multiple crime scenes in a complex murder mystery scenario. The mystery starts as two decomposing bodies are discovered in a cabin. 

By studying the maggots on the bodies, students will use forensic entomology and skills learned from dissection lessons to figure out how much time has elapsed since the two victims were murdered. They will identify the insects collected from the bodies and examine their life stages to record their evidence. 

What students can learn about forensic science as they dissect  

When you connect forensic science careers to dissection, students will be able to connect your lessons to real-world career applications and opportunities. 

As they apply a variety of skills to find evidence for identifying victims and prosecuting criminals through the activities above, it’s important to give students the valuable hands-on learning experience of dissection so they can make those career connections and be on a pathway to future success. 

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