1. Practice the power of observation.
—> Shake up a Room. The mother who stayed with me at the meeting took the girls into the playroom next to our meeting room to have them look around, trying to remember what they saw and where they saw it. Then she had them leave the room so she could hide three objects. The girls were given pieces of paper and pens to write down what three objects they thought were missing. Once everyone finished writing their answers, they compared the results.
2. Communication in code.
—> Learn some classic codes. The girls absolutely loved deciphering pigpen code. It took some of them a while to understand how to use the cipher, but once they got the hang of it, I had them decipher some sentences I wrote in pig pen.
—> Make invisible inks. The experiments came from the badge guide, but they are also floating around on the web (i.e. lemon juice for round 1 and milk for round 2). Both “inks” were huge failures. The girls let the papers dry, then held them up to a bright light. We weren’t able to see anything. The instructions only say to “hold it under a light to see the words.” I found out later that you really need to hold it close enough and long enough for the heat to start oxidizing lemon juice/milk (i.e. start to burn).
3. Fingerprint for fun.
—>The girls watched a short YouTube video titled, “Why do we have fingerprints?” Once that was finished, we trooped over to the craft room for the activity portion – making copies of our fingerprints.
I gave each girl a sharp pencil and a small piece of paper. The girls colored a small patch of paper with the pencil, then rubbed their index finger over the marking to get their finder as dark as possible. Once they did that, myself and another mom came around with pieces of clear packing tape and an index card. We put the tape on their finger, pressing down to transfer the lead to the tape, then we put the tape on the index card and gave it back to the girls.
When everyone had their fingerprint card, I took out several fingerprint charts I had photocopied out of two kids’ forensics books. We went over the major types of patterns, and then some of the variations. Each girl looked at the chart to see which type of fingerprint she had. I believe arches won. The girls looked at the rest of their fingers to see how the patterns differed.
4. Try out detective science.
—> Detect Handwriting Details. This was actually the last bit we did, using an activity listed in the GSRV planning guide (this is an amazing resource if you haven’t looked at it) called. “Who Wrote That?” I gave each girl an index card and had them write their first and last name, their school, and their grade. Some of the girls had to redo theirs as they got fancy or silly with their writing. I collected the cards once they were done. Then, I gave them a new index card and had them write “The rain falls on the plain.” Again, I collected all of the cards.
We sat in a circle and tried to match the name cards to the sentence cards. I had to remind the girls several times to NOT choose the ones they know they wrote. It turned out to be fairly hard to match the cards properly because some of the girls had very similar handwriting. The activity guide has the leader put distinctive markings on the backs of each index card. It’s a good idea, but it didn’t work out for us because I didn’t collect the cards in the same order both times around.
5. Follow the clues to solve a real mystery!
—> Clue hunt. This step was hands down the girls’ favorite. My assistant leader put everything together for this, and she did an amazing job. The girls were paired up, given a cipher for the pigpen code they learned at our previous meeting, and the first clue written in pigpen. Once they deciphered the clue, they followed its instructions and repeated the process. There were six steps in all, and the girls ended up running all over the downstairs area of the church to find the clues.