How Children Can Collect and Examine a Set of Prints
Fingerprints have a purpose. Including a lesson on those little swirls and ridges in science class can be fun for all involved.
The study of fingerprints makes a great science lesson for homeschoolers, or for any child. What follows are suggestions for related activities that will keep a child actively learning.
Why Do People Have Fingerprints?
Fingerprints are really just patterns of tiny circles and swirls and ridges and valleys on the tips of fingers. They are there to help people get a better grip on smooth surfaces, but they are tiny so as not to interfere with a finger’s sensitive ability to feel things. Each person’s distinct fingerprint pattern was formed before birth. No two people have the exact same fingerprints – not even identical twins.
How to Take a Set of Fingerprints
There are many low-tech ways to observe fingerprints. One is by looking at the tips of someone’s fingers with a magnifying glass. Fingerprints also can be easily observed on windows and mirrors. That’s because the skin has a natural oil in it. A little of that oil gets left behind, making a “print” whenever people touch things.
But to get a set of fingerprints that can be easily seen, try the following trick.
- Rub the graphite portion of a soft pencil across a small section of paper again and again until the paper becomes very dark. The pencil will need to be rubbed across at an angle to get the best results.
- Once the section of the paper is dark enough, press an index finger on the dark spot until some of the graphite transfers onto the fingertip. Don’t press too hard, or the ridges of the fingertip will flatten out, resulting in a flat looking fingerprint.
- Next press the graphite smudged finger on a sheet of clean white paper. A pattern should appear.
If obtaining a dark enough print is difficult, try the following method.
- Pull out and tear off a piece of clear tape. The tape doesn’t need to be very long. An inch and a half or so should do it. Place the tape sticky side up on a flat surface.
- Continue as before, by rubbing a black spot of graphite onto a piece of paper.
- Gently sweep a fingertip across the black spot.
- Lightly press the finger against the sticky side of the tape.
- Remove the tape and press it sticky side down on a white piece of paper. A print should now be clearly visible. If not, a little practice should do the trick.
The Print of Each Finger is Different
Try taking a full set of fingerprints. Label each one and examine them all closely. Each fingerprint will be somewhat different. Not only does everyone have unique fingerprints, but those prints also vary from finger to finger, even on the same person.
Fingerprints are fascinating to study, and they have a real purpose. By taking a closer look, children should come away with a greater appreciation of just how amazing those little swirls are.