Mysterious Encounters

Detective
Mysterious Encounters – Earth is a hands-on, fun earth education program for Grade 5 or 6 classes based on the mystery theme of tracking down the secret formula for all life. The students become detectives and go on a day-long outdoor adventure to solve their case. This experience then provides the springboard and framework to enable teachers to integrate environmental learning into the regular curriculum throughout the rest of the term. The students are led through the outdoor experience in small groups by trained high school leaders, each one devoting three or four days to the program in lieu of their regular classes! It is a tremendous learning and leadership experience for the high school leaders who develop special relationships with their detectives-in-training during the adventure.

Mysterious Encounters is run for Grade 5 classes in the fall through the HRM Adventure Earth Centre (Halifax Region). It is also run by the Acadia University Recreation Management and Community Development Program and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens in the Annapolis Valley for Grade 5 or 6 classes. More than 1500 students and fifty classes participate each year. The fee is $180 per class for the HRM program ($200 per class for the Acadia program).

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Outcomes for Students:

  • To increase appreciation, enthusiasm, and interest in the natural world
  • To explain the ecological concept of energy flow at a basic level, including photosynthesis, food chains, and energy storage
  • To appreciate that their lifestyles affect the environment
  • To take one step to reduce the environmental impact of their lifestyle
  • To have fun and pursue environmental learning both in and out of school

The Program Story:

Riddler Crew
Students work to solve The Great Riddle

Mysterious Encounters challenges students to search for the three missing parts of the secret formula that are needed to assure the earth has healthy food, fresh air, and clean water. The class accepts the challenge and becomes part of a complex mystery plot that is full of unexpected complications and tantalizing clues. Once they arrive at the park for the outdoor experience, they receive “detective notebooks” which provide clues and space to record evidence. They begin by using all of their senses to hone their detective exploration skills while working in small groups of five or six, each facilitated by a high school leader. For example, they use tiny reflective mirrors to explore the “underworld” where they discover fragile planets of moss and lichen. They are blindfolded and get to know a new tree friend using their sense of touch. Their explorations are rewarded when they discover the first meaning in the formula.

The detectives move on to four activities through which they experience and come to understand the concept of energy flow: In one instance they are transformed into rays of sunlight energy and gain the first hand experience of passing through a food chain. Would you like to be eaten by a caterpillar? In another mission they sneak into a giant leaf and make a unit of sugar according to detailed instructions piped in over a loudspeaker from Chlorophyll Control. By the end of these missions they have gained a hands-on grasp of the concepts of photosynthesis, food chains, energy loss, and fossil fuel formation.

DSCN0357
Gulp! A bit of sunlight energy is eaten by a caterpillar.

Finally each group of students puts on a play to consider the ways in which their lifestyles affect the earth. At the end of the performance, they come up with their own earth steps, specific things that they pledge to do over the next month to reduce their impacts on the earth. These pledges enable them to discover the secret ingredient that is locked inside an intriguing box.

When they return to school, following through on their earth step is just one of the activities that reinforces and builds on their learning from the outdoor experience. They are also challenged to access the Detective Information Centre on this website where they use a secret password they receive at the end of the trip to access further missions. Finally, approximately a month later, the Chief of the Ecoleese, the main character the students meet during the day, returns to visit their classroom. The Chief checks in on the detectives’ progress and rewards their work with a special Mysterious Encounters – Earth poster that pictures their adventures through the program.

Program Details