Solving mysteries is fun – or at least looks fun when I watch on TV. I use solving a crime as the way to talk about the process of science. The participants have to evaluate the evidence and come up with a plausible explanation. When I want to drive the point home, I don’t give the solution because there is no big textbook where you can check that the results of your science experiments are right.
One of my jobs is Future Science Leaders for students who want to do more in science and technology. Many of these students are used to doing well on tests and getting external validation – when I don’t tell them the planned explanation for a mystery, it drives them crazy. Some of the students from last year are still asking about the ‘right’ answer for their mystery. One of the fun things from last year – we had 6 groups and 5 different answers.
If you want, you can try this year’s mystery – Death at the Day-Lee Grind. I’ve tried to include all the information. We did the mystery over 2 hours, where the students interviewed people and consulted with each other. For the initial interviews, the interviewees are given the basics (in the post) but there is often some new information that can conflict with information from others or from evidence (as in real life). Plus, there are some red herrings so there could be multiple plausible explanations.
As an assignment, the students have to fill out a case report form with their explanation. I have said that I might tell them the planned explanation as a Christmas present. We will definitely discuss their reasoning at our next session and talk about why they included certain information and ignored other evidence.
New for this year: I gave two versions of the suspect information to see if that swayed their reasoning. The versions are two sides of the same information (e.g. doctor with drug problem = one version talks about doctor and other stresses drug problem). In previous years, students will say things like ‘has a record so probably more guilty’ so this year, I wanted to see if that was happening. Before the students left, I told them about the different versions and they had to consult with other groups.
If you decide to try out the mystery, please let me know what you think!