This intriguing website features a growing collection of 39 web-based activities for intermediate and high school classrooms based on the (http://canadianmysteries.ca/)“Mysteries” featured in the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History. These mystery quests are grouped for ages 11-14, 14-16, and 16-18. Building on the important contributions of the WebQuest format and the successful work in critical thinking of The Critical Thinking Consortium, these rigorous and highly interesting critical challenges develop skills in working with the primary documents.
Type of Material:
This site is useful in introducing and using primary sources. Critical thinking skills and interpretive analysis are applied during the investigations. Students discover key aspects of Canadian history that can be used in United States history courses as well. The site could be used information technology classes as well as history courses.
Some of the popular MysteryQuests have been adapted to the interactive whiteboard format. Links for downloading the appropriate software to access whiteboards for Promethean Planet/ActivInspire or SMART Notebook versions are provided on the site.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History" project provides engaging, high-quality materials to schools and universities for the teaching of historical methods and Canadian History. The project builds on the new "document-centered inquiry" and "active learning" pedagogical thinking that challenges students to make their research strategy and critical-thinking skills apparent as they defend their theory on how the given mystery occurred.
Target Student Population:
Middle level through college; general education
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
There are 39 different mystery quests organized by age bands of 11-14, 14-16, and 16-18 years. These interactive, user-friendly lessons are designed for use by individuals working alone or with a partner; suggestions for adapting these resources for use by an entire class are found in the "Teacher Notes" attached to each MysteryQuest. The lessons address key concepts in historical thinking including: What are primary documents?; History vs. the Past; Testimony vs. Evidence; Casual Explanations in History; Distinguishing Biased and Impartial Perspectives, and Kinds of Evidence Offered in Court. Furthermore, A guide is available for each of the Mysteries, and includes a wide range of teacher support, including background materials, activity sheets and detailed lesson plans for one or more grade-specific units for elementary or secondary students. The content is clear and well-presented. The site leads users to develop critical thinking skills.
Material may be more useful in Canadian history classes. However, the critical thinking and internet skills would be useful in any environment.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The sites are designed to make history interesting, helping students to learn more effectively about issues and events in Canadian history. But students will also learn how to think critically about history itself:
What makes a good historical interpretation?
How can we decide what evidence is the most convincing?
What makes an event significant historically?
By trying to solve each mystery, students will learn more about how to "do history", but they will also learn some important skills and gain some important knowledge about how to make sense of the world of information that they are confronted with every day. Moreover, many of the issues presented in stark fashion in the mysteries are still either a part of our own lives today or in the news -- issues like racism, child abuse, terrorism and aboriginal rights.
Each site focuses on a different theme: slavery, aboriginal issues, disease, vigilante rule, terrorism, religious dissent, early settlement, care of the handicapped, and family violence are only a few. The mysteries are drawn from all the regions and the full range of eras in Canadian history and include the major multi-cultural groups. Each site is fully bilingual.
While this project was developed primarily as a resource for teaching history in Canada, educators around the world are using it for a variety of subjects in elementary school, secondary school, colleges and universities. Teachers and professors are using the materials to teach courses such as the following: history, social studies, law, native studies, geography, citizenship, drama, English and French, architectural research methods, art history, the criminal justice system, women’s studies, visual arts, language arts, anthropology, sociology, psychology, reading and developing skills in inference and persuasive writing, criminological theory, computer concepts, economics, and sociology.
The site is attractive and engaging. The presentations are thorough and carefully constructed to provide students with opportunities to work independently or collectively.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This site is systematically organized. Each mystery question has a clearly labeled Introduction, Task, Procedures, Evaluation, Support Materials, Extension, and Teacher's Notes. There is also Evidence in the Case that features primary documents from when this historical mystery occurred. There are hyperlinks within each mystery quest for further information and exploration. Primary and secondary sources are listed at the end of each quest. To return to the main menu from each quest, the user simply clicks on the back button of the web browser or Mystery Quests at the top of the page.
Tabs for Home, Search by Age, Search by Site, Contact, About this Site, and Whiteboards are found on each page. The site is also fully presented in French. On the main page, there is also a link to Becoming a Historian.
Other Issues and Comments:
No issues, just a comment. This site was first reviewed by the MERLOT History Editorial Board in 2008. Now in 2015, the Teacher Education Editorial Board is reviewing it. The site has been continually updated and 30 additional mystery quests have been added. This award-winning site is worth your investigation.
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