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Ideas for Using the Mystery State Activity

Education World's Mystery State activity challenges students to use five clues to identify one of the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia. As students work the clues, they exercise geography skills, develop research abilities, and learn a little history too.

Guessing About Canada

And the mystery province is We've also created 13 sets of clues for Canadian teachers to use. See our Mystery Province/Territory Activity.

Each set of five Mystery State clues is arranged in order of difficulty. The first clue tells something about the Mystery State that might be considered quite obscure, so only your champion researchers will be able to figure out the state's identity from that clue. Subsequent clues offer additional facts that should be a little easier to track down. The fifth clue -- Friday's clue -- will be a dead giveaway to many students.

The Mystery State clues are all here -- in our Mystery State archive -- just choose a state and start the fun!


The Mystery State activity can be used in many ways

Involve parents and students together. Make copies of the printable activity sheet for one of the states and send it home as homework. Parents and students can spend quality time together as they use maps, encyclopedia, the Internet -- and any other resources they can put their hands on -- to help them figure out which state is "hidden" in the week's five clues.

A clue a day You might use the activity in the classroom. Give students one of the five clues each day. (Let them write down the daily clue and take it home with them too.) If the student wants to take a guess at any time during the week, have them fill out a Mystery State slip or write their name, date, and guess on a slip of paper. Collect the slips each day. But don't reveal if students are right or wrong until the end of the week. That'll keep them guessing!

In the Computer Center. The Mystery State activity makes a good scavenger-hunt activity in the computer lab or classroom Computer Center. Provide a list of online resources. (See the list of resources in the endbar at the bottom of this page.) Students can use those resources to help them track down the name of each week's Mystery State. MORE IDEAS

A classroom contest. Have students submit their guesses during the week. At the end of the week, draw from the submissions until you find a student who has submitted a correct answer. Award a prize!

More Lessons

See more lesson ideas for teaching about the 50 U.S. states in our resource Fifty States, Five Lessons.

Reinforce skills of geographic location. Provide students with an outline map of the United States. Have them color each week's Mystery States as it is revealed. That will help students narrow down the possibilities in future weeks. You can find printable U.S. outline maps at the following Web links:

  • U.S. Printable Outline Map #1
  • U.S. Printable Outline Map #2
  • U.S. Printable Outline Map #3

    If you teach the fourth grade or higher, you might also have students identify the nearest coordinates of longitude and latitude for each state.

    Encourage students to learn more. After students have visited a bunch of states, assign each student to delve more deeply into one of them. Students might create a project that demonstrates what they learn about the location.

    Engage students in writing. Once students are familiar with the Mystery State clue format, have them develop their own sets of clues for countries, state capitals, or even cities and towns within your state.

    Online Resources for Discovering the Mystery State

  • (Grades 5-12)
  • Fun State Facts (from the U.S. Census Bureau) (All grades)
  • Internet Public Library Kidspace: Stately Knowledge (All grades)
  • Explore the States (Grades 4-12)
  • ClassBrain's State Reports (Grades 4-12)
  • Phil's Place -- Tourism Page(Grades 6-12)
  • United States -- Facts and Statistics (All grades)
  • State and Local Government on the Net

  • Links last updated 11/09/2006