When we had the chance to review something for The Critical Thinking Co.™ recently, I asked Mr. Intellectual to look over the choices with me, as this looked like products he would enjoy but no one else in the family would be interested in. Sure enough, he was very interested in Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha. He loves mysteries and puzzles, so this was perfect for him.
The first thing I had Mr. Intellectual do was study the Forensic Evidence Lessons, since he had never learned much about that topic. There were lessons about anthropology, arson, ballistics, counterfeit money, death investigation, document and handwriting analysis, and fingerprints. After he spent his spare time for a day or so studying this, I gave him the first part of the mystery to solve.
In Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha, A Whodunnit Forensic Mystery, you are given a scenario, and have to figure out what happened and who did it. Students first get a brief introduction and a map of the area in which the incident happened, and the police report for the case. The police department was called to a fishing cabin, where they found a shed in flames, a body, and a lot of money. After studying this initial report, they are to ask for the witness statements they think might be helpful, and whatever other reports might help them figure out the case. They aren’t given a list of what is available—they have to figure out what to ask for based on the crime scene report! I found it a bit challenging to know how to guide this investigation, since I knew the whole story already but didn’t want to give any information away prematurely. It’s laid out very well, though, and I really appreciated the checklist of all the documents I had available to give him. The instructions are quite clear.
Mr. Intellectual spent about 7-8 hours on this project, not counting the time spent on the forensic evidence lessons. He pretty much knew who did the crime by the four-hour mark, but it took a long time to work out the details and figure out possible motives. Recording all the supporting evidence meant a lot of thinking and writing, which was very good for him.
See all the pages he had to work through:
A few tips if you want to use this book: Buy the digital download rather than the physical book. You’ll want to be printing a lot of pages anyway. Print single-sided rather than double-sided, because it will be a lot easier to spread things out in front of you and compare notes. Also, it would be a good idea to do this in groups or teams so you can have two minds thinking about it. I asked a question once or twice to get him thinking in a different direction so he could solve the mystery, but as I said, since I knew the answers, I had to be very careful how I worded it. Having a partner who didn’t know would have been good, but none of the other boys was interested.
This made a great project during a week that we took off school a few weeks ago. It’s intensive enough that it would have been hard to fit in during a normal week, but makes a nice change-of-pace for a break. Incidentally, during that week a car crashed across the road from us in a high-speed police chase. Studying the tracks to see exactly where the car went gave the children some hands-on practice in forensics.
My final opinion? I would have preferred a scenario that didn’t involve murder, but I felt like this was valuable practice for my boy in searching out the truth of what happened, and thinking logically about evidence that he found. I know he really enjoyed it, and it was good for him.
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