Project Organization and Timeline
Step-by-Step Schedule - Grade 7

Holly Cerullo
Grade 7

Joyce Middle School
Woburn, MA

"How Long Does it Take?"

I teach 7th grade science and have been a participant in Mystery Class for many years. I feel it is the best part of my course, and here are some estimates on how much time I devote to it at various stages of the Activity.

1) Calculating Photoperiod from Sunrise and Sunset times.
I begin this lesson by setting aside one class period, sometime in Nov or Dec. For the two or three days after that, I have the students perform 5 minutes of practice problems. After that, I keep them working on this with 5 minutes of Daily Assignment time (beginning of class while I do attendance and other daily requirements). Specifically, I have the students calculate all Monday Photoperiods for our city from the beginning of school to the present - 4 or 5 per day until caught up, then calculate the Photoperiod on each Monday from then on. I get the sunrise and sunset times for our city for the entire year from a website.

2) When Mystery Class Begins
Each week, I print the weekly update with sunrise and sunset times from my e-mail on Thursday night. I make 25 copies on Friday morning, and place these on students' desks. Students are assigned in pairs to one specific Mystery site, and they calculate its Photoperiod for Daily Assignment. (5 minutes)

Each pair then announces their answer to the class and after confirming it as correct, every student records the Photoperiod on a chart they keep in their individual binder. (5-10 minutes depending on errors that have to be discussed. Time becomes shorter as students make less errors)

3) After the Second Week of Sunrise and Sunset Updates
At this stage, I teach the students how to graph the Photoperiod. I use a graph that covers 3 pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It takes 1 class period to cut and tape these together. The graph is clipped into their binders and folds nicely into thirds.

The next day, I spend one class period teaching them how to graph the
Photoperiod and do approximately three Mystery Class sites as demonstrations. Students do the rest for homework. All students are expected to keep track of all 10 Mystery Class sites, plus our city, however, students with learning challenges can be assigned 5 specific MC, only, that will demonstrate the different degrees of change.

Every Friday from then on, Photoperiod is calculated in class (5 minutes) and
that night's homework is to add those Photoperiods to their graph. I walk around the room on Monday and check each graph quickly (5 min) assigning individual extra help to those that need it. Each student is required to keep the Photoperiod Chart and Photoperiod Graph in their binder for the duration of Mystery Class.

4) Handling Challenge Questions
Challenge Questions lead students to analyze their data, and they are either answered in their journals and discussed in class the next day or just discussed in class as soon as we get them. (10 - 15 minutes/ week)

5) Clues
About half way through the Mystery Class Activity, Journey North posts clues. I print a copy of the clues for each student and give them out on Friday when we do the Photoperiod. These are also kept in the binder. Students are individually responsible for doing the research needed to use the clues. This is assigned as ongoing homework for the week. We do, however, spend about 15 minutes a couple of times a week, sharing some of the things each of us has discovered. (I do mean me as part of that "we", since I work as hard as they do to uncover the secret Mystery Class locations)

6) The Big Finale
Monday and Tuesday before the guesses are due, I reserve our library (computers
and resource books) for all my classes. In pairs of their choosing or alone, they research any or all of the Mystery Classes, putting all their data together. This is great fun and learning, because they are using so many different methods of learning to come up with their guesses.

Answers are due on a Friday so on Wednesday each student is expected to turn in to me their own answers for all 10 secret Mystery sites on a special chart, their Photoperiod Chart and their Photoperiod Graph. All three of these are graded (one graded) according to a points rubric I created, after the actual Mystery Classes have been revealed. For the remainder of the class period, students' volunteer and defend their answers. Then the whole class decides which cities they wish to send in to Journey North as their Contest Class answers. (I will enter classes together, if their guesses are the same. Ex: Ms Cerullo's period 1&3 science classes).

7) When the Locations are Revealed
Of course, on the Friday that the Mystery Classes are revealed, we spend all period talking about the actual cities, how tough the clues were (usually one city is a doozey) and, how well we did (usually very well).


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