The Mystery at Camp ALEC - Students and Teachers Seeing Themselves as Thinkers - Part 1


I will start by just telling the story of what unfolded with the group of students that we were working with at Camp ALEC. Over the next couple of days I will share some thoughts related to the story...

On Tuesday (Day 2) of Camp ALEC the group we were working with began working on a writing project that began by examining Shel Silverstein's If You Want to Marry Me.  Before reading the poem, we generate a list titled If you want to be my boyfriend... Our plan for that day was to make a comparison between our list and the list included in the poem.  We were thinking that we would revisit the same text the next day and use it a model for writing (a mentor text). We were going to have students define what they felt various people in their life should do in their lives.


It seemed an innocent enough learning activity... but the next morning we came in to the room that we were doing our literacy sessions in and found a new poster on the wall...


When the campers arrived and saw the poster we began the day by wondering who might possibly have broken into our word room and posted the poster over ours.  The other group of campers that was working in our room joined in our pondering and before we knew it, we were immersed in "a mystery" and statements like "this room is on lock down" and "we need writing samples from all of the potential suspects" were being thrown around.  The Mystery of Camp ALEC had begun.

That day we did a lot of thinking and writing related to how we could figure out who did it as well as what we would do once we figured out who it was. We focused both on possible clues as well as investing through having conversations. We thought through what "interrogation" questions might help us in finding out more information. We recognized very early on that just asking someone if they did it wouldn't really get us any closer to solving the mystery.

We left camp that day not yet having solved the mystery and we decided we would revisit it the next day and think about what our next step was...

When we arrived (the literacy counselors) arrived at camp the next morning, this is what the entrance to our work room looked like...


We had to wait until the campers arrived before we could go in as we were informed that it was the campers themselves who had done this and not the "mystery people" who had put up the poster the day before. Once they arrived, there was much giggling and excitement as we went in to find what they had done. This is what we found...


After some giggling and wondering, we returned back to trying to solve the mystery of the day before. At this point, one of the campers piped up and told us that Karen (one of the instructors at the camp) had "slipped her lips" and told them she was involved in the poster we had come in to the day before. The campers called her and called on this. Apparently when they were being hands for the campers the night before and were asked to put the poster up, the question of where was asked and they said where and Karen responded with a clarifying question of "Oh do you want us to put it up over the poster we put up." All the campers picked up on it and they thought the mystery was solved but when they called Karen on it that morning she pointed out that she had used a pronoun they needed to think about. When they remembered her using the word "we" they needed to then figure out who the other person was. They decided it had to be other the instructor (someone they had suspected right from when they asked him to give a handwriting sample and he wrote a sample that was obviously not his own). Having exhausted all of their interrogation questions, they decided to take another approach and give David (the other instructor) hugs and coffee (it was morning and it had been a long week) until he admitted to doing it.

The mystery was solved.

But there was still the poster we had found that morning to figure out.  We did eventually figure it out when we decided we needed to gather all the pictures together and write about the steps we had gone through to get to the point of solving the mystery.  At that point we were given pictures of the group of campers working with Karen and Dave (and Alison) on creating the last poster in the series of posters. We had hard evidence of who had done it and the campers could not believe that they had been "ratted out" by the person who gave us the pictures for this final project. 

The week unfortunately ended too quickly as, although we had time to reflect on and sequence the the process, we ran out of time to reflect more deeply on the thinking process. More to come soon on my thinking processes around this experience... 

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