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Frequently Asked Questions
Also see: Advice from Teachers


GENERAL INFORMATION:

Q: What is the Mystery Class Activity?

A: The Mystery Class investigation is an eleven week hunt in which students try to find ten secret "Mystery Classes" hiding around the globe.The changing amount of sunlight at each site is the central clue. Students take an inspiring journey from knowing only sunrise and sunset times, to discovering exact locations of the the ten Mystery Classes.

This investigation demonstrates that, as spring sweeps across the Northern Hemisphere, daylength changes everywhere on Earth. Students see that these dramatic seasonal changes in sunlight affect the entire web of life. (For more information, see "
About This Study")

Q: Do I have to be Registered with Journey North to participate in Mystery Class?

A: Yes, you should register for Journey North to participate in Mystery Class.

Q: I am registered with Journey North. How do I register for the Mystery Class?

A: If you are registered for Journey North, you do not need to do any additional separate registration to participate in Mystery Class.

Q: I have several classes participating in Mystery Class. Do I need to submit a separate registration for each of them?

A: If you are registered, you will be put in the Journey North database, receive the weekly email news "Updates", and be able to enter the Mystery Class contest for all your classes. So, there is no need to register all your classrooms separately if you are the coordinator for all the classes.

However, if there are other teachers for each of the other classrooms participating in Mystery Class, then you may want to have each teacher register separately so they will each be put in our database, receive the weekly email news "Updates", and be able to enter the Mystery Class contest if they choose.

Q: What grade level is best suited to participate in the Mystery Class Activity?

A: Mystery Class is suited for most grade levels. We have participation from Grades 2 through 13.

Q: What about modifying Mystery Class for younger students or for those wanting more of a challenge?

A: For younger students, many teachers will try to find just 3 Mystery Classes (rather than all ten) to make the project more managable. To help with this, just before Mystery Class officially begins in late January, we will identify 3 secret locations by number for younger students. Teachers may contact us at that time to request this Mystery Class modification information. Similarly, for students who need more of a challenge, teachers cam contact us for sites that align with their advanced abilities as well.

Q: When should I begin Mystery Class?

A: Mystery Class officially begins in late January, but in the fall you can get the students familiar with some of the concepts and ideas of Mystery Class by following the monthly "Countdowns" from September to January. You can also visit the Resources to Explore page.

Q: Are the Mystery Classes only in the United States or are they anywhere in the world?

A: We think BIG! The ten Mystery Classes can be anywhere in the world.

Q: When we measure sunrise and sunset times by observing these conditions at our locations, sometimes our times are slightly different than times we read in local newspapers, calendars, etc. Why is that?

A: As it's been explained to us, the air actually bends the light of the sun, especially near the horizon. So, when you look at the sun right at sunrise, you are actually seeing over the edge of the Earth. Technically, the sun isn't there, it's just it's image. This effect means that at the moments of sunrise and sunset, the sun is actually below the horizon. This adds extra time at both times of the day. Maybe an extra few minutes each side? This is why times you observe may be different from some standardized printed times.


DATA FROM THE MYSTERY CLASSES:
Q: When and how will the sunrise/sunset data from the Mystery Classes be given each week?

A: Every Monday during the Mystery Class activity, students will record their local sunrise and sunset times on their Data Sheets. Using this information they will calculate daylength (photoperiod) in their hometown. On the same days, students at ten secret Mystery Class locations around the world will also record their own local sunrise and sunset data. Then, on Friday of each week, the data from the secret Mystery Classes will be posted in the weekly Friday Update.


CLUES:

Q: When and how will clues be given?

A: Clues will be given for approximately four consecutive weeks. The clues will begin with the "Longitude Clues" near the vernal equinox, and then be followed by additional interdisciplinary clues for four weeks after that. During this clues period, we post one clue from all ten secret classes each week. The clues begin with broad information, and as the weeks go on the information gets more specific. Answers will be due two weeks after the final clues are given. 

Q: I have searched for a web site that will locate the coordinates of our mystery classes. Where do I go to find the longitudes and latitudes?

A: Because this is a contest and a learning exercise, we won't be able to refer you to a specific site to look up the lat/long coordinates of particular cities around the world.

Have your students give their best estimate of the location's lat/long coordinates, using whatever sources they wish to use (maps, atlases, websites, etc).

When your students submit their answers, the most important part of their answer is the city/town and the country. We ask for the lat/long so we have another way to confirm their answers generally (We recognize sources might give slightly different lat/lon coordinates.)

Q:
Using longitude has narrowed our search, but in several instances this year and in past years, there are more than one place on that longitude line or nearby. Is there a way to use our photoperiod information to locate a specific latitude that we are missing?

A: Please be patient. We'll be posting more clues each week to help you narrow your search toward a town or city--hang in there.

Q: Help! I have misplaced the clues given for the Mystery Classes on a certain date. Is there a way I can get those clues?

A: You can always find all sunrise/sunset data and clues on this Mystery Class Sunrise/sunset Data and Clues page. Notice the link to this page from the Mystery Class Home Page.

Q: Can clues be E-mailed to us early?

A: We're sorry but we can only publish the clues on their scheduled dates. Asking us to send the clues to you before the established date for publishing presents a difficult situation for several reasons:

Out of fairness to all participants, we set up a schedule for all the important deadlines, and that schedule applies to everyone. As teachers who set deadlines for your own students, you can understand that it is uncomfortable for us to provide clues to any class before the established date for publishing those clues to all the other contestants. How would we explain this to the other classrooms who have all relied on the schedule which said "no exceptions".

Q. Our Spring Vacation comes at the same time the final clues are published or the same time as the answer deadline--can Journey North change the deadlines?

A: As you know, school calendars and holidays vary widely, and with hundreds of schools in the U.S. and Canada participating, it would be impossible to coordinate around everyone's calendars. But that's one of the reasons we put the Mystery Class calendar up from the very start, so everyone knows in advance how their calendar fits. And remember, we feel the importance of the Mystery Class Activity is that of being a learning activity first, and a contest second.


SUBMITTING YOUR ANSWERS

Q: How do I submit my Contest answers?

A: A "Mystery Class Answer Form" with detailed instructions will be posted in our weekly reports in April. (See sample.)

Q:
In our answer, how detailed or accurate do you expect the longitude and latitude to be? Whole degrees? Tenths? hundreths? Does it matter if they use decimals versus degrees minutes and seconds?

A: Follow the instructions for submitting your answers carefully. Use the Checklist we provide. The most important part of the answer is the city/town and the country. We ask for the lat/long so we have another way to confirm the answers. (We recognize sources might give slightly different lat/long coordinates.) We'd prefer the lat/long to be given in decimals, and going to tenths of a degree is fine.

Q: What if I have more than one class entering the contest?

A: Teachers with separate classes should submit a separate Answer Form for each (which will be available in April). Under "Class Name" be sure to identify which specific class the answer is from. Example:

* "Ms. Johnson's 1st hour class", or
* "Ms. Johnson's 4th hour class"

Q: Can I submit Mystery Class contest answers for two different classes with only one registration? I would be submitting the results for both groups.

A: There is no need to register all your classrooms separately if you are the coordinator for all the classes. Just be sure to submit a separate Answer Form for each, and identify each class separately when you submit their answers (see above).

Q: I have several classes and/or several schools participating in Mystery Class. In order to submit contest entries, do I need to submit a separate registration for each of them?

A: If you are registered, you will be put in the Journey North database, receive the weekly email news "Updates", and be able to enter the Mystery Class contest for all your classes. You can certainly register each class/school separately but there is no need to do so if you are the coordinator for all the classes.

However, if there are other teachers for each of the other classrooms participating in Mystery Class, then you may want to have each teacher register separately so they will each be put in our database, receive the weekly email news "Updates", and be able to enter the Mystery Class contest if they choose.

 



WHY ARE DEADLINES REQUIRED?

Q: Can we get an extension of time and send our Mystery Class answers in after the deadline?

A: No. As with clues and their deadlines, the deadlines for submitting your Mystery Class answers apply to everyone and there are no exceptions. Unfortunately, it is impossible for our schedule to align with every classroom across North America. We let everyone know these deadlines in every one of the Updates so that no one's expectations will be dashed because of a deadline. Everyone knows about the schedule and everyone gets the same amount of time to answer. There is another reason we don't allow late submissions, and that is we have many, many answers to judge, and if answers come in later, it might delay the whole schedule.

Q: If we can't submit our answers on time, has all our time been wasted because we won't be in the official contest?

A: No. The importance of the Mystery Class Activity is that of being a learning activity first, and a contest second. We feel strongly that the true importance of the Mystery Class Activity is student learning, and we feel that your situation of being unable to get your answer in on time can be an important opportunity.

You see, everyone that participates in Mystery Class, whether they "place" or not in the contest portion, is truly a winner that has come such a long way in this journey of Scientific and multi-disciplinary investigation. Just think, your students start at the beginning with just the photoperiod of a site somewhere in the world, then move to determining the approximate latitude, and then to finding the approximate longitude, and finally to forming a conclusion about where they think the Mystery Classes are located. This is a remarkable accomplishment and is truly what we hope will be celebrated!

Q: Can we still be part of the contest even if we don't submit our answer?

A: Yes, you can can have a contest of your own, and also compare your answers to some of the winners in the Official contest too. Even if you don't submit an answer, at the end you can compare the number of right answers you had to the students in the official contest.You and your students can celebrate your own achievements in your own classroom.

 

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