Rogue Rodent Mystery - Teaching Tools

Rogue Rodent Mystery - Teaching Tools

To help your teachers get off to a great start, Community Learning has created the following tutorials that demonstrate activity set-ups.

Lesson 1: Observing the Clues - Investigating with Your Senses

In this first lesson, your students’ are introduced to the mystery of the missing guinea pig through a video taken immediately after realizing that Alice was missing. Students will also be introduced to the job of a forensic scientist and prepare to take on the role by practicing their skill of observation.



Lesson 2: Recording Your Findings - Sketching the Scene

This lesson will challenge your students to make a rough sketch of a pretend crime scene. The focus of sketching at this stage (rough) should be the inclusion of all objects, the proper positional placement and relative size of objects in the scene.


1. Use flashlights and shadows to play with scale. Create a scene using interestingly shaped objects (model dinosaurs, block towers, cars and trucks,etc.). Give students time to experiment with the flashlight, figuring out how to make shadows of their objects on the wall. Holding the flashlight parallel to the ground, have them move the flashlight closer to and farther from the objects. What happens? The shadow of each object will increase or decrease in size the same amount — or to scale. Take this investigation further by tracing the outline of the objects as they are increased in size. Cut the images out and make a giant play scene. Discuss approximately how many times bigger the play scene is than the original scene.

2. Make sketches of other areas around school such as the playground, library or front entrance. Have students share their sketches with one another. Encourage them to describe what objects are in the sketch, the size of the objects and the position of the objects.

3. Take your sketching to the next level! Give students access to rulers and graph paper. Students at this level can use one square on a piece of graph paper to represent one inch in real life. Have them measure the length and width of an object. Then sketch the object using a 1:1 scale on the graph paper.

Lesson 3: Listening to a Witness - Creating a Composite Sketch

Students will discover that a picture can replace a long verbal description and help others better understand. In science it is very common to use pictures - photographs, diagrams and graphs – to convey your process and findings.


1. Have students use their drawings of Alice to make “MISSING” posters. Encourage them to use descriptive words and art to help others identify Alice.

2. Play your own version of Guess Who? in the classroom. Have everyone stand up. The teacher will choose one student to be “the suspect.” Do not reveal who the suspect is. Have students  ask yes or no questions about the suspect (ex.Does this person have on glasses? Is this person wearing pink?). As questions are answered, students who do not match the given description should sit down until “the suspect” is the only one standing. Keep track of how many questions it takes to find the suspect. Challenge students to try to get this number as low as possible.

3. Have students spend time drawing self-portraits using mirrors. Encourage them to use descriptive words about themselves.

Lesson 4: Analyzing Alibis - Monitoring the Movement of Suspects

In this activity, students will hear the alibis of four suspects. They will practice the skills of a forensic scientist by listening carefully to each story. Then, using matching picture cards, students will retell the details of each suspect’s story in sequential order.


Hone your skills of deduction and reading body language by playing Two Truths and a Lie. To play the game each person thinks of three statements about themselves (ex. I was born in May. I have a pet dog. I eat pizza every night for dinner). Two of these three statements should be true. One statement should be a lie. Have students take turns sharing their statements. The class should try to guess which statement is the lie. If someone guesses the lie correctly, have them share what tipped them off. Did they already know some background on the student? Did the student change his behavior during the lie? Was it just a wild guess?

Lesson 5: Applying Physics - Studying Force and a Falling Skeleton

Students will focus on the fallen model skeleton in Mrs. Hawkins’s classroom to imagine (and predict) what happened on the day Alice was taken. By running a simple experiment, students will make a connection between a force (a rolling ball) and the resulting movement of the object (a model figurine).


1. Spend time outside with a few soccer balls. Have the ball start in a stopped position between two students. Have them pass the ball back and forth to one another. As they do this, talk about the pushes acting on the ball. They should be able to identify one each time the ball changes direction, comes to a stop, or starts moving.

2. Go outside on a windy day with streamers and bubbles. Which way do the streamers and bubbles move in the air? What does this tell us about the direction of the wind? Spend time watching the movement of other things outside — leaves, grass, etc. Can you tell from which direction the wind is coming?

3. Use 10 empty 1-liter plastic bottles and a playground ball to set up a bowling alley. Why don’t all the pins fall down each time? What happens if you roll the ball to the right side of the pins? To the left side of the pins? Straight down the middle? What happens if you roll the ball slowly? Quickly?

Lesson 6: Inspecting Pattern Evidence - Comparing Shoe Prints

For this lesson, students will focus on visible, two- dimensional prints. They’ll study the visible, two-dimensional shoe prints left behind on Mrs. Hawkins’ classroom floor. Students will try to match parts of a print to a larger pattern and measure the length and width of the shoe print.


1. Create plastic, three-dimensional shoe prints outside! Have students walk through loose dirt, sand, snow or grass — whatever you happen to have outside. Compare how easy or hard it is to see a shoeprint in each medium. Spend time changing the amount of force you use while you walk. Tiptoe, walk, stomp and run across the ground. How does changing your gait change your print?

2. Experiment with weight and shoe prints. Lay two sheets of card stock side by side. Create one print by walking across the paper in the regular way. Create another print while holding a gallon of water. Does your increased weight change your print?

3. Provide students with play dough and an array of different textured materials. Give them time to make different impressions in the dough with the tools. How many different patterns can you create? What happens if you push down lightly? What happens if you push down with all of your weight? Use a tool to create your own pattern. Challenge students to try to replicate the pattern with the tools provided.

Lesson 7: Researching Rodents - Discovering a Guinea Pig's Survival Needs

Students will be asked to learn more about guinea pigs to better understand how Alice came to be missing. Is it possible that a suspect took Alice home? This information will be recorded in a table. Students will use the table to make arguments about the potential involvement of each suspect.


1. Survey the class to find out what the most popular type of pet is. Use the results to make a bar graph. Help students discuss the results. Are these animals domestic or wild?

2. Watch live-streaming videos of guinea pigs.Spend time observing the movements, behaviors and interactions of live guinea pigs. Create a behavior observation chart with the time in the left column and a space to write in the behavior in the right column. Try to check the guinea pigs at the same time each day. Do you notice any behavioral patterns? When do they eat? When do they sleep?

3. Learn more about how guinea pigs communicate. This website provides video clips of different guinea pig sounds and an explanation for what each sound means.

Lesson 8: Following the Colorful Clues - Making Orange Paint

In this activity, students will figure out which suspect was most likely to have left behind orange paint smudges by mixing together different primary colors of paint. Students will be challenged to follow a procedure in the correct order. 


1. Use the different colors created during the activity to paint a picture. While you are painting ask students to recall what the three original colors of paint were. How many colors do we have now? How many new colors show up as the paints mix in your art?

2. Make rainbow fruit smoothies! Choose two different colored fruit or vegetable ingredients (red=strawberries, spinach/kale=green,blueberries=blue, etc.). Add these to a blender with a little bit of plain yogurt and ice. Before blending, have students guess what color the smoothie will be. Blend, notice the new color, and enjoy!

3. Make or buy play dough in red, yellow and blue. Have students mix together small bits at a time. How many colors of play dough can you create? Build something beautiful with your new rainbow of dough!

Lesson 9: Weighing the Evidence - Testing the Scales of Justice

Students will use balances to literally weigh the evidence of each suspect against one another. Not only will this give your students a chance to use a common measurement tool in science, it will provide a visual to help them formulate their own conclusions. 


1. Choose an assortment of objects from around the classroom. Challenge groups to put the objects in order from lightest to heaviest just based on their sense of touch. Then, use the balance and gram weights to determine how many grams each object weighs. Put the objects in the correct order from lightest to heaviest. How well did students order the items using their sense of touch?

2. Challenge students to build the strongest bridge they can out of newspaper and masking tape. Encourage them to try folding, draping, rolling and stacking the paper as they build. See how many gram weights each bridge can hold. Challenge students to re-work their bridge to hold more gram weights.

Lesson 10: Considering the Confession - Understanding Misunderstandings!

This last activity is designed to tie together any loose ends or resolve unanswered questions about the mystery. It is also designed as a celebration of the mystery solved!


Spend time allowing students to learn more about the career of a forensic scientist. Find biographies, career information sites and individuals to interview to learn more.