Activity Snapshot: History Mystery
Carlotta Facts, the History Mystery Museum's engaging professor, wants your students to guess the mystery subject she is studying in each game. Dr. Facts provides a number of clues, and she challenges students to figure out the subject using those clues. Each game contains either four or five clues. Students can use the World Wide Web or offline research sources as they attempt to identify the game's mystery person, place, event, or object in history. Each game centers around a particular curriculum theme in United States or world history.
The time required for this activity is about one to two class periods. Students need time to check out the clues, determine a research strategy, conduct research, and submit their solution to the History Mystery. Time may vary depending on the reading level and problem-solving skill of the students.
- Use problem-solving and critical thinking skills
- Analyze clues
- Explore topics and events from the 4–8 social studies curriculum
- Use search terms to conduct Internet research
- Use an online interactive form
- History Mystery Game Vault
- Computer access
How to Use This Game
History Mystery is designed as an independent student activity, which can be played by individual students or by a small group who works together to figure out the mystery person, place, event, or object in history.
Teachers should explain to the students that the incentive of the game is to solve the mystery in the fewest clues. Throughout the game, students are encouraged to conduct research by using the clues they have collected thus far.
They can "investigate" the mystery by using the online search option built into the game. However, the results are not guaranteed to be found in those Web sites, meaning that students will have to devise various research strategies, depending on each game. Students are also encouraged, for example, to use offline resources, such as textbooks, library books, and maps. The game provides an excellent opportunity for collaborative research by small groups of students.
Once students have conducted research and come up with possible solutions, they should return to the game and submit their answer in the blanks provided within the game. If their answer is correct, they will receive a particular designation as an investigator of historical mysteries and be able to learn more about the mystery subject. If their answer is incorrect, students will have the option to receive another clue, investigate further, and/or submit another possible solution.
- Have students create their own time line with time periods indicated but no events marked. Each time students solve a mystery, have them locate and mark the person, place, event, or object in the appropriate place on their own time line.
- Have your class create its own History Mystery Museum exhibit, where students can display information and artifacts (e.g. photographs) they gather relating to the History Mystery game.
- Have students use their social studies textbooks and related classroom materials to create their own History Mystery game. Small groups of students could develop clues similar to those used in History Mystery and have their classmates attempt to discover the solution. Themes should center around the particular topics being studied in class. An activity center with clues printed out on cards could make this an independent enrichment activity within a classroom.
- Play a version of "Twenty Questions" around history themes. The teacher or a student could think of a historical person, place, event, or object, and students would be allowed 20 questions to try to guess the mystery. Questions must be worded so that answers can be either "yes" or "no." This could also be done in teams of students. Themes should center around topics being studied in class.
National Standards Correlations
In playing History Mystery, students identify people, places, events, and objects important in United States and world history. History Mystery aids students in meeting many of the standards put forward by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). Participation in History Mystery especially correlates with the following themes in social studies:
- Time, Continuity, and Change
- People, Places, and Environment
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
The experiences of conducting research, solving clues, and finding additional facts help students meet the following specific middle-grades learning goals, which fall under the strands cited above.
- Explain and give examples of how language, literature, the arts, architecture, artifacts, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development and transmission of culture.
- Identify and describe selected historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the rise of civilizations, the development of transportation systems, the growth and breakdown of colonial systems, and others.
- Locate and describe varying landforms and geographic features.
- Analyze group and institutional influences on people, events, and elements of culture.
Meet the Writers
Sunita Apte and Michael Sandler are the writers of the History Mystery game.
Sunita Apte grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and attended Columbia University. She lives in New York City, where she has worked as an educational writer and editor for over nine years. Nowadays, if she's not indulging her first love, cooking, she's hot on the history trail. Sunita often can be found traveling in Asia, South America, Europe, and the United States, taking a firsthand look at some of the places she learned about in social studies classes and searching out the perfect masala dosa.
Michael Sandler is a Show-Me-State native from St. Louis, Missouri, and fellow Columbia University graduate. He almost became history himself when he got lost in the Sahara ten years ago. After finding his way, he visited historical sites in Mali and then returned to New York City, where in addition to writing and editing, he has worked as a sound engineer, run a movie production catering company, and spent countless hours exploring the intricacies of cyberspace.
Strangely enough, Michael's desert experience didn't throw sand on his enthusiasm for travel. He has followed up that trip with other long jaunts around the globe. In his spare time, he ponders that greatest of history mysteries: Why haven't the New York Knicks won an NBA title since 1973?
The following Scholastic supplemental materials can be used in conjunction with History Mystery:
American History Timelines by Susan Buckley
These large, reproducible social studies timelines allow students to learn about historical topics and add dates, information, and art work.
Scholastic Homework Reference Series by Anne Zeman and Kate Kelly
These guides on geography, world history, and American history provide a ready reference source for historical facts and concepts in each of the three areas.
To order any of the Scholastic supplemental materials above, call 1-800-724-6527.
World Wide Web sites are a great research source for students attempting to solve the History Mystery clues. These should be used in addition to offline sources such as textbooks and reference books.