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How to Do a Kids’ Forensics Fingerprint Activity

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Check out this easy forensics fingerprint activity! Using pencil graphite makes it less messy for the kids. It's perfect for the Bear elective, Forensics.

Cub Scout fingerprinting activity

I love the Bear elective adventure, Forensics! Maybe it's because I've watched too many episodes of CSI. ?

Seriously, one of the things I love about Cub Scouting is that it gives our kids an opportunity to try lots of different things from camping and hiking to using hand tools to build fun wood projects

Cub Scouting also gives our boys and girls an opportunity to explore STEM activities too. The fingerprint activity is just one of the fun STEM things to do.

Requirement 2 involves taking fingerprints and learning how to analyze them.

Bear Elective Adventure Forensics Requirement 2: Take your fingerprints and learn how to analyze them.

The Bears handbook tells the Cub Scouts to use an ink pad. I tried that at a pack meeting one time. It did not end well.

I brought wipes so that the Scouts could clean their fingers, but they still wound up getting ink on the tables and their clothes.

bear cub scout fingerprint activity for forensics

But here's a way that you can avoid that mess! Use pencil graphite instead of ink. It's a lot less messy and works just as well. Read on to find out how it works.

Before you start the activity, have your scouts find a buddy. Working with a partner will make this a little easier for them.

Discuss Fingerprints

Before your Scouts begin taking their fingerprints, have a brief discussion about fingerprints. Remind them that everyone's fingerprints are unique. Even identical twins don't have the same fingerprints.

Ask the Cub Scouts what fingerprints are used for. Police use them to identify criminals.

Ask them if any of their parents use fingerprints to unlock their iPhones

Types of Fingerprint patterns

Give each pair of kids a copy of the fingerprint types handout that you can download below. Have them examine it, and ask if they can see the whorls, loops, and arches.

Enter your email address below to get a printable of the fingerprint patterns image. It has two copies on the page.

Get your Bear Cub Scout Fingerprints Type Printable

Enter your email to get your Bear Forensics Fingerprints Type printable!

If you don't get an email within 10 minutes, check your spam folder. If it isn't there, let me know at [email protected]

By entering your email, you'll also get lots of other Cub Scout tips and tricks in my weekly email.

Preparing to Take Fingerprints

Here's how to take fingerprints using pencil graphite. It's best to do this activity in a room with good light. 

The Scouts might need to take their fingerprints more than once so that they get a good set to analyze.

Even though graphite is fairly easy to clean, you will probably want to cover the table and have some wipes available. 

First, you'll need to gather your supplies.

Supplies Needed

  1. “Types of Fingerprints” Printable
  2. Index Cards – at least two per participant
  3. Pencils
  4. Pencil sharpener
  5. 3/4″ Transparent Tape  (A big tape dispenser works great for this!)
  6. Magnifying glasses (The party favor kind works well.)
  7. Wipes

How to Take Fingerprints

Start by having each child write their name at the top of one of their index cards.

pencil graphite for fingerprint activity

Have each child rub the lead pencil on an index card to make their own “ink pad.” 

Once the ink pad has been created, have your scout gently rub their finger over the ink pad. They don't need to press down hard, but they should move their finger around so that the lead gets on most of the fingertip.

rub finger on pencil graphite for fingerprinting activity

For example, they'll probably need to roll their finger to the right and rub and then to the left and rub.

pencil graphite on fingers for fingerprint activity

While one Scout is applying the graphite to their finger, have the second scout pull off a piece of tape about 1 1/2″ long.

Lay the tape on the table with the sticky side up. The second Scout may need to hold down the tape at one end.

placing finger on tape for fingerprint activitity

The first Scout will gently place their finger on the tape. Don't press down too hard or move your finger around a lot. You'll probably need to roll it from one side to the other, but try not to move too much so your fingerprint won't be too smudged.

finger on tape for fingerprinting activity

Lift your finger off of the tape, and place the tape on the blank index card. Repeat this for as many fingers as you want. 

tape with fingerprint on index card

Make sure each Scout has a wipe to clean their fingers with. 

After they've taken all the fingerprints, it's time to analyze them!

fingerprint card

Analyzing Fingerprints

After the Scouts have completed the process of gathering their fingerprints onto index cards, have them get together in groups of three or four to analyze their fingerprints.

examine fingerprints with magnifying glass

Using a magnifying glass, have them look at their own fingerprints first. Even a cheap toy magnifying glass will work.

They should compare their fingerprints to those on the handout and decide if they see whorls, arches, or loops.

Next, Scouts can compare their fingerprints to each other's. They can discuss similarities and differences between each other’s fingerprints. 

You could even have the kids create a graph with how many children have an arch, a loop or a whorl type fingerprint pattern.

fingerprint type poll

I hope your Bears enjoy this fun fingerprinting activity for kids! 

Yours in Scouting,

P.S. If your Cub Scout loved this activity, they might like the My First Lab Whodunnit? Microscope and Forensic Accessory Kit!

Cub Scout fingerprinting activity
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