Genetics: Fingerprint Lab


Over the past week we have been learning about Mendelian genetics (or simple genetics).  As a fun introduction we carried out a fingerprint lab.

Why a Fingerprint Lab?

I wanted to show the children that there is only one of them.  This was quite important for the girls to see, given that they are twins who look very similar.  We would be looking into inherited traits much deeper later on in the week.  For today I just wanted them to understand that they have traits about them which are unique to them as an individual.

Making a Fingerprint Map

As fingerprints are unique to each individual we made a record of them for eight fingers and two thumbs for each child.  These would be used in an investigative lab I had planned for later in the day.  I printed out a lab sheet from Pandia Press (which we would use as a finger print map for each child) and gathered my supplies.  The sheets describe a method of taking finger prints using only a pencil and paper, I believe an ink pad works fairly well too. However, I had a finger printing kit from one of the many amalgamated science kits I have bought from charity shops over the years, so I used that:

DSC_0312finger print

The children simply dusted their own fingers and pushed them onto the lab sheet:

Ribbet collagefplab1

Once they had done each finger, they used the magnifying glass to look closer at what type of print each finger had – a whorl, loop or an arch and made a note of it:

Ribbet collagefplab2

Mythbusters: Are Fingerprints Fool Proof?

Once they had finished, they watched this MythBusters film about their attempts to recreate a set of fingerprints which would foil a fingerprint analysis for entrance to a room.  Entrance to the room required a specific code in addition to the owner’s fingerprint.  The MythBuster team attempt to prove they can make a fake fingerprint and enter the room covertly:

An Investigative Lab to determine Ownership of an Object using Fingerprint Analysis

Afterwards we set up an investigative lab to see whether we could successfully use our previously made fingerprint maps in order to work out which jar belonged to which person.  Each child make a set of finger prints on a jar, by holding it.  I labeled each jar A, B and C and made a note of which child had held which jar.  Only I had this information.  The goal was for the children to work out whose was whose:

Ribbet collagefplab3

The children dusted the jars for finger prints and then by studying the fingerprints against the collated fingerprint maps make an educated guess as to whose jar they had:

Ribbet collagefplab4

They did well with T13 even suggesting that perhaps C12 should be locked up!

DSC_0332finger print

And a Bit of Playing About….

The next day I let the littles have a turn, which they just LOVED!

Ribbet collagefplab5

B4 was having so much fun she brought her own magnifying glass to obtain a closer look:

DSC_0337finger print

This lab showed the children how unique they were as far as their finger prints went.  They learnt that they were so unique, things they had touched (and therefore fingerprinted) could be traced back to them.

Next we studied Gregor Mendel and his work with genetics.

For all of my Science posts please see my Science and Maths page

For all my IGCSE Genetics posts click here


  1. I’m so enjoying your genetics study. We’re meant to be doing this but somehow other priorities have taken over but now we have your wonderful ideas to follow! Thanks for sharing what you guys are doing. Inspiring as ever!

    1. Thanks Hwee. We’re enjoying it too, especially given that it is for the specific purpose of passing an IGCSE. I’m happy with how it is all going.

  2. We did a homeschool day last fall where we explored fingerprinting and observation techniques at one of the local museums. Of course, I’m going to have to show the children the Mythbusters clip now because they’re going to be very interested in that 🙂

    1. I had thought of setting up some sort of mystery but I’m trying to reduce the amount of planning I do for each lesson so decided against it. It was still fun though!

  3. This is one we’re going to have to steal from you – too much fun! My kids love Myth Busters too, so it’s perfect 🙂

  4. This looks like grand fun. The mystery print is a great idea. We used to watch Myth Busters when we had television. I’ll have to check out You Tube. You find the best things there. Thanks for sharing!

    Have a lovely day. I have seen nine species of birds this morning. I think spring is in the air.:))

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