Mystery Spot

Authors: Rachel Hughes & Kirstin A. Bittel

Time: 2 days
Preparation Time:  

setting up computer access
Internet access

Access Excellence (http://www.accessexcellence.org) has a series of mysteries that students can engage in. This exercise is an opportunity for them to use their understanding of diseases to solve the mystery. This lesson can be done individually if your school is fortunate enough to have a computer lab that can accommodate your class for several days. If not you might want to consider doing this exercise as a class using some form of computer projection device. In a class situation consider grouping students so they can race to solve the mystery behind the disease.

Students will be able to:

i. Derive a possible method of transmission and present in a flow chart or some other graphic form.
ii. Draw inferences from evidence and observations and create a chart to display those.
iii. Draw and present a conclusion based upon the inferences made and their prior knowledge from previous lessons.

National Science Education Standard:
Content Standard A - Science as Inquiry
Communicate and defend a scientific argument – Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately, developing diagrams and charts, explaining statistical analysis, speaking clearly and logically, constructing a reasoned argument, and responding to appropriately to critical comments.

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Personal and Community Health – The severity of disease symptoms is dependent upon many factors, such as human resistance and the virulence of the disease-producing organism. Many diseases can be prevented, controlled, or cured. Some diseases, such as cancer, result from specific body dysfunctions and cannot be transmitted.

Related and Resource Websites
Access Excellence Mystery Spot: http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/mspot/



1. Access Excellence provides some excellent mystery scenarios that require students to apply their understanding of disease transmission to solve the mystery. There are seven mysteries available and several of them involve a solution that can only be accessed after a week, making it difficult for students just to ‘look up the answer’ rather than trying to work it out by them. Depending on your students and the computers available to you, you can work as a class, in small groups or individually on solving the problem.

2. This lesson is written for those students who may only have access to a few computers with internet access. Divide your class into several groups.

3. Explain to the class that each small group has been challenged to solve the ‘Mystery of… (at this point you can choose which one you think might intrigue your students most, we suggest Artica, Blackout Syndrome or Yellow Jackie).

4. As a class you will go over the mystery, stopping intermittently to make a choice or for the teacher to ask what students think is going on. Students should write down the evidence and observation that they think is pertinent and any inference that they make from that evidence. Once you have finished reading through the mystery have each group present their solution to the group using the evidence and observations that they collected through the exercise.

5. If you have a larger group of computers available divide the mysteries among the small groups and set the challenge to solve the mystery.

6. Students should each create a table where they list the observation or evidence and the inference made. As a group, students then explain what they have inferred from the evidence and observation as the reason behind the illness.

7. Individually students should create a flow diagram or some other graphic display which shows the pathway of illness.

Embedded Assessment

1. The flow chart or other graphic form allows for assessment of student’s ability to derive a possible method of transmission given the information available.

2. A chart which displays the inferences derived from evidence and observations allows for assessment of students’ ability to differentiate between evidence, observation and inference.

3. The presentation allows for assessment of students’ ability to draw and present a conclusion based upon the inferences made and their prior knowledge from previous lessons.

If applicable

Embedded Assessment



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo