CSI Twitter- Crime Scene Investigation

CSI- Crime Scene Investigation at school!

Third graders find unidentified skeleton on school campus.

Unidentified skeleton found on school campus
Unidentified skeleton found on school campus

What is one to do, when you find such a specimen on school grounds? Students across grade levels took a mini fieldtrip to the pond on campus to examine the skeleton. The BIG question for everyone, including teachers was: WHAT kind of animal was it? What an opportunity and teachable moment for students and teachers to collaborate in the investigation process and find out.

We had different approaches to the investigation:

Approach A:

  • took photos of skeleton and xeroxed copies for students to take home and do research involving parents
  • researched online for different images from animal skeletons to compare
  • using parent veterinarian as resource
  • got in touch with school librarian

Approach B:

  • took photos of skeleton and e-mailed them to local Museum of Science and History, local zoo and Florida Fish & Wildlife Service
  • e-mailed photos to local veterinarian.
  • posted request for identification and research help on School Librarians listserve
  • blogged about it on The Barefoot Librarian – Can you identify this Aninmal Skeleton?
  • took the opportunity for lesson with 2nd & 3rd graders to talk about and demonstrate inquiry and research process
    • first stop library for reference interview
    • use books and online resources to narrow search
    • contact local experts
    • evaluate your sources. What makes an expert? (Animal lover versus Florida Fish & Wildlife Service Employee)

Approach C:

  • took images of skeleton with iPhone
  • uploaded to Twitpic, which sent  automatic tweet to  Twitter network
First set of images sent to Twitpic
First set of images sent to Twitpic
Second set of images sent to Twitpic
Second set of images sent to Twitpic

Over the next three hours the “shout out” for help in identifying the skeleton received over 50 Twitter responses with

  • links to resources to further investigate
  • guesses on what it could be
  • help to get experts involved
  • questions to help further narrow the answers down
  • advice where else to publish questions and take advantage of the power of social networking

Following the tweet


I uploaded the image to the ID-Please group on Flickr.

Flickr_ ID Please
After a few hours, comments were left by other Flickr users
After a few hours, comments were left by other Flickr users
Note being left direcly on image, identifying the three teeth being typical of a racoon.
Note being left directly on image, identifying the three teeth being typical of a raccoon.

Another tip came and suggested to upload the image to a site called “idthis.org


The Twitter network also jumped in and retweeted (RT) the request for help onward to their network


Guesses and further questions what animal it could be flooded in

TweetDeck-ideasand question








Suggestion of getting in touch with experts who could help our investigation along or expert’s guesses:







Links to more Resources:




I am amazed, again, at the power of the network. As the investigation spread across our school campus, so it did across the network. Having a support team, a flood of resources and experts at your fingertips (literally), it is truly an example how learning, research, has changed through the collaboration, connecting and communication tools of the social network era.

I am happy to report, that all three approaches of research came to the same conclusion.

Our skeleton seems to be a raccoon skeleton.

Our librarian has collected the specimen and is shipping it, as we speak, to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Services, who have offered to clean it up, give us a positive identification and ship it back to us.

27 thoughts on “CSI Twitter- Crime Scene Investigation”

  1. Silvia, what a fantastic activity! I found the former science teacher in me thoroughly enjoying being part of the collective detective work. Not only did you introduce problem solving but you also illustrated so well that multiple paths can produce similar and validated results.

    Kudos to you and your students on a wonderful activity and experience. I can’t help but wonder who in your class is now fired up about forensic science.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that our Environmental Studies faculty members Jon Atwood and Meade Cadot also say that the skeleton is a raccoon! What a great activity!

  3. buenísimo este descubrimiento y genial cómo lo resolvieron….
    me encantó ver las maneras que utilizaron para resolverlo!!!! FELICITACIONES esto es lo que se llama aprendizaje auténtico, no???
    Envidia, “de la sana”, me genera esta experiencia….

  4. This is the way learning should be! I wish I was in your class =)

    Some thoughts on other activities:

    Experts come to help kids “clean-up” and do CSI thingies with it. Find out how it died, and knowing info about it in the process like habitat, food, predators, level in the food chain, population (near extinction or overpopulated) etc.,

    Kids examine skeleton, write essays about it and the experience, etc.

    Share find with other grade levels. Maybe even high school! And share everything you did that others across the world might find valuable.

    Great job!

  5. An absolute cracker of a learning activity and one that shows the power of a personal learning network in a very powerful way. Congratulations to you all for such an intersting story on solving a problem and especially for sharing it.

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