Missing Money Mystery: An Introduction to Forensic Science is a 12-lesson course for elementary students. It is designed to ignite curiosity and stimulate authentic learning by creating real life contexts ranging from lab analyses to print making to criminal investigation. Missing Money Mystery has been used enthusiastically in all 50 states, stimulating young minds and engaging young hands for many years. In fact, thematic integration—over an extended period of hands-on engagement—forms the driving concept behind all Community Learning’s courses. The lessons and activities that comprise Missing Money Mystery are aligned to the practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas that are the foundation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In addition, the activities included in this unit align to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts and Literacy. For more information on the standards please see the Standards Matrix included in the appendix.

Bringing the Mystery to Life

Missing Money Mystery is based on the premise that a crime occurred in Mr. Mugg’s fourth grade classroom at Markwell Elementary. A canister holding the money for an upcoming geocaching field trip disappeared sometime after dismissal on a Monday afternoon. Mr. Mugg makes this discovery the following morning. He knows his students have been looking forward to this special trip which will introduce them to the natural world through a real life treasure hunt, and he decides to undertake the investigation himself—with the help of your (the course instructor’s) students. To launch his investigation, Mr. Mugg uses the classroom computer to learn about forensic science and the necessary activities, tools, and tests he needs to solve the crime. He shares this information with your students through a series of email letters. He then locates and gathers the clues and packages and sends them in a box to your classroom. Inside this box are all the materials needed by your students to conduct the investigation, including photographs, scientific equipment and “evidence.”

Each lesson introduces new intriguing evidence, forensic techniques, and insight toward solving the Missing Money Mystery. To limit the suspect possibilities, Mr. Mugg has narrowed the suspects to four—all current students of his. Two are boys and two are identical twin girls. Together, your students work toward the most plausible scenarios and celebrate their findings in the concluding lesson with certificates honoring their work as forensic investigators.