Third Graders ‘Mystery Skype’ With Students Across the U.S.

What is Mystery Skype? Mystery Skype is a 30-45 minute critical thinking activity that challenges students to deduce the location of another classroom in the USA or even the world. Third grader’s in Stephanie Stone’s class have been studying US geography and the art of asking good “yes or no” questions, in order to be prepared to guess the mystery location, in twenty questions or less. The students’ goal is to guess the mystery class’s state before they guess ours! On this day, third grade students were talking to children at the Ben Franklin School in Edison, New Jersey.

Preparation begins weeks before the Skype date, when students practice asking general questions, with a goal to eliminate as many states as possible with each question. Questions range from, “Are you west of the Mississippi river?” to “Do you border another country?”

The opposing teams take turns, asking and answering one question at a time. In addition, CA third graders must be experts in Colorado geography, in order to accurately answer the opposing students’ questions.

Students have specific jobs, with the bulk of the work being done on the floor with laminated USA atlases and dry erase markers. There are also a group of students on iPads and laptops, checking Google Earth, maps, and other geography research sites. Students record the questions our class asks, as well as the answers they have given, so there are no repeat questions. There are photographers, a videographer, a student to greet and introduce the class, and various other jobs. The key to a successful Mystery Skype is for everyone to collaborate.

Once students guess each classroom’s location, any extra time is taken to share more details about each state, school, mascot, or whatever the kids are interested in learning about the other class!

At CA, creating a global community of learners and thinkers is an important goal. This activity engages everyone, for an extended period of time, while developing critical thinking, geography, communication and collaboration skills. This activity is an authentic purpose for research and learning, and their enthusiasm propels them to sustain interest and further their learning. Most importantly, this is a fun and highly engaging educational activity that each student (and teacher) is excited to participate in.