Investigating Fingerprints

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Science, Life Science

Grade 3- 5


Students learn that each individual possesses a unique set of fingerprints.


Use one of the following methods to make fingerprints. The first method will be less messy and if done carefully will yield an excellent print.

Rub a soft lead pencil on paper until you produce a good pencil smudge. Rub your finger in the smudge and lift the print off your finger with clear tape.
Roll your finger on a stamp pad and roll, not press, the finger on white paper to make an impression.

Without letting students look, ask them what they would see if they looked very closely at their fingers. Distribute magnifying glasses and ask students to make observations about their fingers. Focus attention on the tips of the fingers and encourage students to look at their fingerprint patterns.
Distribute copies of the activity sheet and ask students to record the fingerprints of both hands on the sheet using one of the methods described above. Model how to make a fingerprint impression. Then have students make their own fingerprints. After their prints are done, ask students to describe the patterns of the fingerprints. Introduce the loop, whorl, and arch patterns at the bottom of the activity page and have students identify which patterns closely resemble those made by their fingerprints.

If time permits, pick out a set of prints made by somebody in the class and ask a team of "detectives" with magnifying glasses to identify whose they are.
If you have identical twins at school, ask them to record their fingerprints. Compare each set of prints to see if they are also identical. (They will not be.)


  • Investigating Fingerprints activity sheet (one per student)
  • magnifying glasses
  • stamp pads or soft lead pencils
  • clear tape
  • clean-up materials such as paper towels, soap, and water
  • The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole (Scholastic, Inc., 1990)

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