Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Science Mystery, Part I The Beginning

This introduction to the mystery is a bit long and complicated. For my six-year old, I had to tell him the story, not read it to him. I also told him the part he needed to know when the time for that information was needed. For example, I told him the statements from the suspects after we had done the testing/experiments, so the relevant information was fresh to him. He couldn't hold that much information in his head and retrieve it, if I didn't give it to him as he needed it. My nine-year old heard the story with my 6-year old, but he was able to juggle many more of the facts at once. He  quickly picked out the footprints, for example, and what suspects this pointed to. Older students can read this themselves. Use your own judgement on how you present this material. Remember, the object is for them to have fun, not be frustrated.

Our mystery begins with a wealthy man, Mr. Busy Body, who has planned a small dinner party, but when the guests arrive both the host and one of his prized possessions, a valuable painting, are missing, and a ransom note was found, asking for a handsome sum for the return of Mr. Body and his painting. You have been asked to help out in the investigation of this case by analyzing the scientific evidence. You are given a folder from the police and it includes a statement from the officers who responded to the initial call, and statements from each of the suspects who were found at Mr. Busy Body's residence.

The first report is from the responding officer. He states that he came to the scene of the crime at 5:50 pm, responding to a call from the maid, Mrs. White that Mr. Busy Body and the valuable painting, was missing. When he arrived at the scene, there were six individuals at the scene: the maid, Mrs. White; the cook, Miss Scarlet; Mr. Green, a painter hired by Mr. Busy Body; and Mr. Body's three dinner guests; Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Body's daughter; Professor Plum, a chemist and old friend of Mr. Body's; and Colonel Mustard, a veterinarian and old friend of Mr. Body's. Their statements were taken and the crime scene forensic scientist gathered evidence to be examined. A ransom note was taped to the wall where Mr. Body's painting had hung. The note was dusted for fingerprints, but none were found on it. The ransom note demanded a sum of money to be delivered in a suitcase and to be left in a telephone booth 5 miles from Mr. Body's home. None of the suspects lives near the telephone booth. Outside near the back steps some paint spilled on the sidewalk and several footprints were found around it made from the paint. The paint was identified by Mr. Green as being the paint he was using to paint the outside of Mr. Body's residence. White powder was found on the carpet in front of the area that the painting had hung.  When a tape lift was done of this area, some white threads and some small brown hairs were found. A glass with a small amount of brown liquid was found on a small table beside Mr. Body's favorite chair on the balcony outside Mr. Body's bedroom. It has not yet been examined for fingerprints or tested to determine its contents.

"My name is Mrs. Pearl White and I am Mr. Busy Body's maid. I have been working for Mr. Body for ten years. My duties include light housekeeping, answering the door and any other duties Mr. Body requires. He was having me help the cook, Miss Scarlet set up for dinner by setting the table in the dining room. I was in and out of the room all day, first cleaning and then setting the table. I last saw Mr. Body at 3:30 when he said he was going up stairs to take a bath and prepare for his guests arrival.  I answered the door and Mrs. Peacock, his daughter, was the first guest to arrive. I went up to knock on Mr. Body's bedroom door to let him know that she was here and he did not answer. After knocking several times, I opened his bedroom door and there was no one there. I came back downstairs and let Mrs. Peacock know that I did not know where Mr. Body was. It was then that we all searched for him. I first helped Mrs. Peacock search the entire upstairs and then we came downstairs and did not find anyone and so I went  outside to see if Mr. Body was in the garden. I accidentally stepped in some paint spilled as it was getting dark and I was getting upset because we could not find Mr. Body. I had to take my shoes off when I came in and clean them and that is when I discovered that the painting was missing as well and that there was a note taped to the wall where the painting had been. I then called the police."

The police report on Mrs. White states that she was wearing loafers and a standard maid's uniform.When questioned, she stated that she had been using some cleaners which contain baking soda that afternoon.

"My name is Miss Scarlet and I have been Mr. Body's cook for 18 months. That afternoon I was preparing a full course meal for Mr. Body's small dinner party he was having that evening. I was running a little behind so at about 3:30 Mr. Body asked Mrs. White to give me a hand. I was in the kitchen all afternoon, and then Mr. Body came down at about 4:30 and asked me to fix him a glass of soda. He waited for me to fix it for him and then he left the kitchen and I went back to work fixing the dinner until Mrs. White came in a little after 5:00 to ask me if I had seen Mr. Body and was very agitated that she could not find him. I then began to search the downstairs while Mrs. White and Mrs. Peacock searched the upstairs. I even went outside to see if he was there, but he wasn't. By then all the guests had arrived and Mrs. White had called the police."

The police report stated that Miss Scarlet wore a white uniform and flats. She lives about three miles from Mr. Body's residence and owns a dangerous guard dog. There was a police report on this dog about three months ago when it escaped from it's pen and bit a neighbor. When questioned she said cooked Mr. Body's favorite meal, roast beef and gravy, which contains corn starch.

"My name Mrs. Peacock. I am Mr. Busy Body's daughter. When I arrived,  I asked Mrs White, the maid, where Dad was and she said that he was upstairs still and that he had been upstairs since this afternoon. She went up to tell him I was here and was gone a few minutes when she returned to tell me that he was not in his room after all. She went in to ask Miss Scarlet, the cook, if she had seen him and she said that she had not seen him since earlier in the day when they went over what she was serving for tonight's dinner. She said that she would help us look for him, so she searched downstairs while Mrs White and I looked upstairs. We searched the entire upstairs and could not find him. It looked like he had showered and dressed and had had something to drink on his balcony, but that was all we could see. When we went downstairs, we noticed that Dad's painting was missing as well and that there was a note taped to the wall, and so we immediately called the police."

The police report on Mrs. Peacock states that she was married about a year and a half ago to a man that Mr. Body disapproved because of his financial state. It was noted that the Peacock's have borrowed substantial sums from Mr. Body during the last year. Mrs. Peacock recently has taken a job at a pet store to supplement their income, also of which Mr. Body disapproves. She wore a simple dress and a sweater and jogging shoes that night. When questioned, she stated that she had been making some gluten-free cookies made with cornstarch.

"My name is Mr. Green and I was hired by Mr. Body about a month ago to paint the outside of his house. I had been working on the house all day when it became hard to see, so I went in to turn on the outside light so that I could finish up the back of the house. I was almost done. There was just this little bit left to do. I went in and I guess I accidentally knocked over the paint because when I came back, I saw that it was spilled and my footprints were in the paint, along with some others. It wasn't long after that that I began to hear some excited voices inside, so I took off my shoes and came inside to see what was the matter. I thought maybe since somebody had stepped in my spilled paint, that they were upset about that and I wanted to make sure I was not in trouble. When I went inside I found out that Mr. Body was missing and that the police had been called and I was to stay inside until the police came. When they came a whole crew came and was looking everywhere and they told me not to touch the paint until they gave me the okay. That is all I know."

The police report on Mr. Green is that he has been regularly hired by Mr. Body to paint the inside and outside of his residence, and that he has always been satisfied with his work. He wore his painter's overalls to work that day. There was a brown ink pen in the front pocket of his overalls.

"My name is Professor Plum and I have known Mr. Body since college when we were roommates. I was invited over for dinner that night, as I am frequently as we have maintained our friendship over the years. I arrived at about 5:15 and no one answered the door, so I tried the door and it was unlocked so I came in. I couldn't find anybody at first, but then I found Mrs. White and Penny (Mrs. Peacock), who said that they could not find Busy (Mr. Body). Just then Miss Scarlet came downstairs and said that she could not find him upstairs. Just then Penny noticed that the painting was missing and that there was a note in its place. I told them not to touch the note but to call the police and so Mrs. White called the police."

The police report on Professor Plum states that he is employed by US college as a chemistry professor and that he and Mr. Body have been friends since they met in college. He was wearing a long sleeved shirt with a sweater over top and slacks with loafers. A pen with brown ink was found in his front shirt pocket. When questioned, he stated that he had been working on some experiments that afternoon involving baking soda.

"My name is Colonel Mustard and I have been friends with Mr. Body for years. I remember Penny when she was just a small child. We met at a chess club and have been friends ever since. I arrived at 5:20 and I was let in by Penny, who said that she couldn't find her father, but that they were looking. I couldn't imagine what she was talking about until Mrs. White came down and yelled, "The painting! It's gone! I am calling the police." At that point everything was all a confusion."

The police report substantiated Colonel Mustard's statement about being friends with Mr. Body for years and that they shared a love of chess. Colonel Mustard is a veterinarian and has been for twenty years. He was in the military before starting his own practice and trained dogs for military use.

The next thing in the file is a series of photographs of the footprints made in the painter's spilled paint.

Show your students the "suspect footprints" sheets from the police and tell them that these may help them identify the footprints. You can click here to see our experiments and instructions on how you can do the experiments yourself, if you would like. Feel free to tell us what your child thinks are the most likely suspects from the clues given by these clues and if you complete the experiment yourself and make a post on it, please leave a link in the comments. Worksheet to print out to keep track of the clues can be found here.

Mrs. Whites known prints

Mr. Green's known print

Mrs. Peacock's known prints

Colonel Mustard's known prints

Professor Plum's known prints

Miss Scarlet's known prints

Now ask your child to look at the pictures below of the crime scene and see if they can find out whose prints are there. Have them check off on their worksheet who these prints point to.

Crime scene where the paint was spilled.

Attached to the next page is a small clear envelope of the white powder that was found on the carpet where the painting was hanging.

If the white powder can be identified then it may prove to be a clue to the identity of the kidnapper of Mr. Body and the thief of the painting. By looking at the powder,  you can see that it is a fine white powder, and that it could be either baking soda or cornstarch. Perform the appropriate tests to determine which it is.

Show your child how we performed  the test here, or, here are  directions on how to perform the testing in your own home, if you want. (Scroll down to the bottom to see how to do the starch testing.)

You are welcome to leave a comment with what clues your child feels were revealed by this test and if you complete the experiment yourself and make a post on it, please leave a link in the comments.
Next week you will not need anything unless you have a microscope and would like to play around with it, looking at things such as threads and hairs.
Worksheet to keep track of the clues can be found here.
When you are ready to move on to Part II, click here.


  1. Anonymous31.10.10

    Oh Thank you, how fun, I just printed this out. I don't know where to go to the get the worksheet for them to fill out. I know you posted it, I think you did, I just don't know where. LOL.

  2. Anonymous31.10.10

    Oh good, I got it now ! This looks like such fun, thank you for sharing your science fun with us, you are so talented with this, what a blessing for all of us!

  3. Very fun! I can't wait to go through this with the kids :)

  4. Oh, this si so similar to our "Who Borrowed Mr. Bear" mystery we are doing in our Homeschool Enrichment Group- I hope to have my kiddos follow you mystery in some capacity. (Oh, and I LOVE the names you used- in fact, I just watch the movie "Clue" last night on TV!)

  5. Oooooohhhhhh, this is going to be SO much fun! I have a friend who might join me in this.

  6. Yes, it is a bit like "Who Borrowed Mr. Bear." (GEMS Guide Mystery Festival)We have done that and some things are similar. There will be some new things, too.

  7. Ooohh we are definitely doing this. This looks like something Kei will LOVE LOVE!! Thanks for sharing.

  8. This is terrific! I can't wait to get started on it!

    We've added your science mystery button to our blog, too.

    Thank you for the great planning!


  9. Oh, and thanks for mentioning the publisher of the Mr. Bear mystery because I had totally forgotten who made that.

  10. This looks like a lot of fun. I am going to link this to my son's blog and have him do it for science after break.

    Have you ever been to AE Mystery Spot? Your kids might like it if you haven't. They have excellent virtual mysteries of varying levels of difficulty. The first one we did was as a family and it was called "Croak." It was great!
    You can find a link to it on the science page at my homeschool-for-free site, if googling doesn't work: http://homeschool-for-free.webs.com/

    Have a Merry Christmas!



  11. What a fabulous series of posts! Thank you. Unfortunately, the worksheet download link isn't working anymore. Any way we can get a copy of this?

    1. I can email the document to anyone who is interested. Just leave a coment (like you did, Jacinta) and I will send you a copy attached to an email.

  12. Do you still have copies of your worksheet?

    1. No, sorry, I can't find them. 😣


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