Forensic students step into investigator’s “shoes”

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Creating shoe print molds in class, students learn more about collecting forensic evidence. Students learned how to identify class and individual characteristics in shoe prints just like investigators do in real life. "I like labs because they are really cool and it encourages the science nerd inside of me," Walker Pinson (12) said

A new day, a new lesson plan and a new lab.  Forensic students get the opportunity to turn classroom learning objectives into real-world experiences.  This week, students’ knowledge took a step forward when doing their shoe print and impression investigation lab.  

Throughout the year, labs are presented and allow students to get into the mind of an investigator.  In this lab, all students took part in the creation of their own patent shoe print and created a 3-D shoe impression mold.  

Students had the option to participate in stations; the patent shoe print lab and a three dimensional shoe impression mold. 

“It is better than doing book work,” Madison Chandler (12) said. “It is cool that the labs we do are actually used in solving crimes in real life.”

Before the students started the patent shoe print lab, they picked up a special piece of paper.  This paper records the description of the shoe, any notable individual characteristics, and the material of the back of the paper even allowed for a reaction to display a two dimensional shoe print when stepped on with invisible ink.  These papers would be used as a reference sample in the real world. 

When students got to the three dimensional shoe print station, they were given a tray to make a mixture of sand and water.  This tray was then set on the ground for a student to place their foot in to make a shoe impression. This made an indention in the sand.  The shoe impression was coated in hairspray to not let the sand stick to the finished mold and the tray was then filled with plaster molding.  The students even got to make their own molding, making sure it was the consistency of pancake batter. This mixture was then poured next to the shoe impression and filled the tray.  Toothpicks were placed on top and the mold was given time to harden.

“The labs have helped me explore opportunities in other fields I never knew about,” Ace Miller (12) said.  

The students even got the additional option to participate in creating a patent shoe print out of fake blood.  These prints were made by painting the bottom of a student’s shoe with fake blood, then walking on a long sheet of white paper.  The idea behind this was to see how bloody shoe prints at a crime scene might look and how investigators would identify the class and individual characteristics from these prints.  

Overall, labs help several students learn subjects better through hands-on activities. Through trial and error, they learn how hard a job in forensic evidence can be.  However sometimes challenging, there is no doubt that students leave the classroom with more of a forensic investigator mindset.