You Need to Do Fingerprinting Activities in Your Classroom

Fingerprinting activities bring fun to the classroom! Kids love studying dactyloscopy, or the science of identifying fingerprints. Recording their own prints, analyzing others, and even some creative art projects will keep your students smiling.

Ms. Sneed Plans Her Mystery Unit

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, once again sat at the back table in her classroom. She was planning a mystery genre study with her co-teacher. “Our kids will absolutely adore these detective activities,” she said to Mr. Frank. “Let’s try these fingerprinting activities on Friday.”

“Okay, sounds good. However, I wouldn’t mind trying the different methods in advance. Ultimately, I’d like the kids to have a good experience.”

Ms. Sneed nodded.

Fingerprinting Activities for the Mystery Unit

“The worksheets from our mystery unit suggest either pencil lead or ink pads for the fingerprinting activities,” Mr. Frank noted.

Again Ms. Sneed nodded. Then she walked to her desk and gathered some supplies. “You can try the pencil lead while I work with an ink pad.”

Using Pencil Lead and Tape to Take Fingerprints

First, Mr. Frank scribbled on a piece of paper with a pencil. He went over it several times, pressing hard. Next, he rubbed his pointer finger on the spot of lead. Finally, he pressed his finger onto the sticky side of a piece of tape.

“Cool!” Mr. Frank said as he taped his fingerprint onto the paper.

Surprisingly, one of the most effective fingerprinting activities uses only a pencil and tape.

Using Ink Pads

In the meantime, Ms. Sneed pressed her finger onto an ink pad. After she pressed it onto a piece of paper, she frowned. “Too dark,” she said.

Next, she made several other prints without going back to the ink pad. “They get better with less ink,” she told Mr. Frank. “These fingerprinting activities take a little finesse!”

Of course, an ink pad can be used for fingerprinting activities.

When they finished, the two teachers put their fingerprint papers side-by-side. “Lead!” they both exclaimed.

“Undoubtedly, kids will have better luck using a pencil,” Mr. Frank said. “Let’s use that method.”

Lifting Prints with Cocoa Powder

“As usual,” Ms. Sneed began, “I’ve been trolling around Pinterest.”

Mr. Frank rolled his eyes but let her continue. “One pin showed how kids could dust for fingerprints using cocoa powder.” She  grabbed a plastic cup, a paintbrush, and a can of cocoa from her desk.

“Alright. Let’s give it a try,” said her co-teacher. He firmly grasped the cup with his right hand, pressing firmly with his fingers.

Ms. Sneed carefully took the cup from him. Then she dabbed the brush in some cocoa powder. Softly brushing on top of a print, she saw it appear. Finally, she lifted the print with a piece of tape and pressed it onto the paper.

“I don’t know,” said Mr. Frank. “It looks like a blob to me. Can we just suggest trying this at home?”

“Okay,” Ms. Sneed agreed. “If the results aren’t clear, I’d rather not do it here.”

One fingerprinting activity asks kids to dust using cocoa powder.

Ms. Sneed’s Kids Do More Fingerprinting Activities

The following week, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow met again. “My class really got into fingerprinting,” she said, “so I decided to do a bit more.”

Creative Fingerprinting Activities

She pulled a fall tree and some colored ink pads from her bag. “Wow, that is awesome!” Mr. Frank remarked.

“And easy. Even kids without any artistic talent created masterpieces. You should try it!”

You can create art projects like this fall tree with fingerprints.

Fingerprint Drawing

Next, Ms. Sneed pulled a book from her bag. “The librarian suggested this book with fingerprinting activities.”

Ed Emberley’s Complete FunPrint Drawing Book,” Mr. Frank read.

“Yep. My niece had a ball with this book, so I bought it for my classroom. In addition, I purchased a complete set of colored ink pads. Then I set up a fingerprint drawing station at the side table. Kids can go there when they’re finished with their work.”

“I’ll bet that’s popular,” Mr. Frank said.

Ms. Sneed broke out in her famous teacher’s smile. “You betcha!”

Use Ed Emberly's Complete FunPrint Drawing Book for all kinds of fingerprint pictures.

Enjoy Teaching Detective Activities

Ms. Sneed loved, loved loved teaching mysteries. Detective activities brought her particular joy. In addition to fingerprinting, her students participated in observation activities, solved logic puzzles and secret codes, and experimented with invisible ink. They really added interest to her genre study. Try some with your students!

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