Super Sleuths

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this physical sciences activity, learners use science to solve a "crime." Learners collect trace evidence (glitter) and explore its characteristics, such as color, size, shape, and light reflection. Learners observe and classify this evidence to identify the most likely "suspect."

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 4-6 shallow containers (one for each suspect and the unknown glitter evidence)
  • 3-5 different types of glitter
  • 3 magnifying glasses
  • lamp or other bright light source
  • 1 pair of tweezers
  • 1 pad of sticky notes
  • paper and pencil
  • 4-6 notecards (3 in. x 5 in., unlined)
  • 4-6 paper envelopes (one for each type of glitter)
  • transparent tape
  • 1 single hole punch
  • light microscope (optional)


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Geometry
      • Solid Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction
      • Sunlight and Color
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Explicity developed for this group
    • Acknowledges this group's contributions to STEM
    • Highlights STEM opportunities for this group
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group
    • Uses inclusive images of people from this group


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2013

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, DRL-1114739
  • L'Oreal USA For Girls in Science
  • Northrop Grumman Foundation
  • PPG Industries Foundation