Science Mystery Activities for Middle School

Who doesn’t love a good mystery?! Young children and older children alike have so much fun when faced with a puzzling question and a case to crack. Let’s be honest, these fun activities are often just as exciting for the science teacher as they are for the middle school students in your classroom. If you’re interested in some mystery science lesson plans that are sure to spark the interest of your junior detectives, here are a few science mystery activities for middle school you’ll definitely want to check out!

Why Make Time for Science Mysteries?

I get it. As a middle school science teacher, your plate is already FULL of important content to teach, papers to grade, assessments to review…the list goes on and on. The job of a science education teacher is anything but easy. You may find yourself wondering, “Are science mystery activities truly a good use of our instructional time (not to mention my own personal time)?!”

While it’s true that many of these different activities involve some additional prep work (as does any hands-on activity) I truly do think making the time to plan for and implement a few of these science mystery activities for middle school is idea for any science teacher.

Here’s are a few reasons why:

  1. These activities are fun for everyone! They tend to be a great way to increase positive attitudes and get even the most resistant students excited about science!
  2. Mystery activities are a great opportunity for students to stretch their “critical thinking” muscles.
  3. Many activities can be conducted in small groups — a wonderful chance for students to learn the value of collaboration!

And finally, the most important reason:

Solving mysteries is what science is all about! If you want to give your students a true taste of being a scientist, give them chances to form their own question, practice deductive reasoning, and investigate different areas of science.

Science Mystery Activities for Middle School

Let’s get practical! When it comes to choosing good classroom activities, I try to look for lessons that will get my students thinking and will encourage good class discussion. Each of these great ideas will have your group of students working together to solve the mystery at hand.

Find The Hidden Animals

This activity great addition to any life science or ecosystems unit! For this mystery lesson, provide students with a picture of a different habitat (ex: rainforest, marine, grassland) and a list of “hidden animals” they need to find within the habitat picture. Personally, I like to provide magnifying glasses to make this activity a little extra fun!

This mystery can be used:

  • As a partner or small group activity
  • As part of a series of learning stations
  • As a quiet, independent activity for students who finish their work early

Who Did It?

Trust me…no middle school student can resist a good crime scene analysis (especially when the suspects are different teachers from the school.) For this activity, you get to decide what the “crime” in question is. Perhaps something valuable has been stolen? An important piece of school property has been vandalized? Or if you want to make things really interesting…students always love a good murder mystery.

The choice is yours!

Once you’ve developed your crime story, provide students with different fingerprint images taken from the “crime scene.” They should also be given a set of fingerprints belonging to a list of suspects under investigation. I find that assigning these fingerprints to different teachers in the building tends to help build excitement. Students will then use their best classification skills to determine which teacher committed the crime!

Mineral Identification

It’s time for “mystery minerals!” For this activity, you’ll need to provide students with several different mineral samples for their investigation. They will observe and test these minerals and use the information they gather about the physical properties of each specimen to determine each type of mineral.

Properties for testing may include:

  • Hardness
  • Luster
  • Color
  • Streak

What’s Under the Microscope?

For this activity, students will be viewing and analyzing different samples under a microscope. I recommend providing five different “mystery samples” and ten options of what their samples could be. Students must assess and guess the identity of each sample.

Not only is this activity a fun mystery, it’s also a great time to review the parts of a microscope and familiarize students with how this important piece of science equipment works.

Mystery Science Videos

On this YouTube channel, you’ll find online videos diving into a variety of different science-related mystery questions. These short videos are sure to pique student interest and are a great starting place for classroom discussion. These engaging videos can be used as a bell-ringer activity, an extension activity, or simply a fun way to get students thinking and talking about science.

Some of my favorite video topics include:

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