Albion Middle Schoolers gather evidence and solve a mystery

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Students learn skills to use with Common Core tests

Photos by Tom Rivers – Students have questions for High School Principal Dan Monacelli, who portrayed “Forgetful Frank” in Friday’s mystery where students tried to determine who robbed the Pig E. Bank.

ALBION – Middle school students are told, over and over again, to gather evidence when they are in class. They will need facts to support their arguments when they take tests.

They need to observe, have deductive reasoning and make a compelling case in their writing.

On Friday, students in sixth through eighth grade put those skills to the test. They needed to solve a robbery at Pig E. Bank, a middle school mystery that had students moving throughout the school, interviewing suspects and witnesses.

Middle school staff left clues throughout the building that either pointed to certain suspects or exonerated them from the crime.

“We’re teaching them to reach in and find evidence and clues,” said High School Principal Dan Monacelli. He also portrayed “Forgetful Frank,” one of the suspects in the crime. (He couldn’t remember where he was at the time of the robbery.)

The exercise on Friday began with a video that introduced students to the seven suspects in the crime, Monacelli and six teachers.

Kami Feder, the middle school art teacher, portrays “Talking Tessa” in Friday’s exercise where students gathered clues to solve a mystery at school, an exercise to teach students to gather evidence and use deductive reasoning in their writing assignments. Talking Tessa enjoys talking and texting people, and also likes to share tons of useless trivia.

Students were given clues about the suspect after they solved problems. For example, they were given a formula that said length of a person’s foot is approximately 15 percent of his or her height.

They were given a foot size of the suspect and they could calculate the person was about 60 inches or five feet tall. They discovered symbols and matched them with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Those symbols suggested the word, “Pretty.”

Students carried notebooks and made stops through the hallways. They asked questions, trying to get information from the suspects and witnesses about the crime.

“We’re trying to get them to have fun while using their head,” Monacelli said. “The whole idea is citing evidence in the text when writing.”

Eighth-grader Kate Krieger, center, portrays “Miss Uh-huh,” a witness to the robbery.

Friday’s exercise was intended to help students learn the tactics needed to perform well on the Common Core tests. Monacelli believes having students get out and physically hunt for clues and build evidence will help them when they are taking the tests at a desk.

“It’s just like taking the ELA test,” said Liz Marquette, a science teacher and new teacher mentor coordinator. “You need to support your findings with evidence.”

Students used clues to narrow the list of suspects. Ultimately, the evidence pointed to “Pretty Penelope,” who is math teacher Jennifer Rowe.