History Mystery

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Lesson Summary:

This lesson is designed to present students with an opportunity to observe their surroundings and record evidence a theory on the histories of Bainbridge Island.  Students will collect evidence though their observations of their surroundings.  Students will be asked to develop a theory and use their evidence to support their claims.  Students will be provided with an opportunity to collaborate with their peers to reinforce or revise their claims.


Students will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of history as a compilation of stories and perspectives within a given time period and setting
  • Observe and collect evidence to formulate a theory, prediction, or claim
  • Exchange ideas and theories with peers to revise or reinforce their own thinking
  • Learn about the cultural histories of Bainbridge Island and the Puget Sound


  • Student contributions to group discussions.
  • Students use of evidence to support claims about history of the Harbor 

Venue: Harbor, Cemetery, Video Alcove

Material: Student Journals

Age: 4-6th Grade

Set-up: Be aware of the clues the students can find


The Lesson: 


The term"history" comes from the Latin word istoria which means knowledge acquired through inquiry.  The “mystery” the students will be focusing on is what was occurring on Bainbridge Island from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.  What are the histories of Bainbridge Island and from whose perspectives are those histories derived?

What was “occurring” can encompass:

  • Who was around?
  • What the land looked like?
  • What specific places might have looked like in the 1800s and 1900s
  • Significance of existing structures
  • How people interacted with other people
  • How people interacted with the land

The students are going to spend time observing their surroundings and record evidence they think will help them theorize what was occurring on Bainbridge Island in the early 1900’s.

Depending on limiting factors the activity can be truncated to focus on specific locations and/or perspectives to make the process more manageable (i.e. focus on the harbor settings, the great hall setting, or the cemetery to limit the scope of the investigation and the prevalent perspectives represented within a given setting).


  1. Begin by asking what the students know or have heard about the histories of Bainbridge Island and or the Puget Sound in general.
  2. Explain the lesson objectives and your learning goals for the activity.  The learning goals should be specific to your student group and their needs.
  3. Explain to the students that they will be gathering evidence to formulate a theory of histories.
  4. They will be alternating between independent exploration/data recording time and group sharing/collaboration time.  They will use an available page in their journal to record the evidence that they come across.
  5. Have a discussion on the concept of evidence to make sure everyone is on the same page.  It is important to talk about what is considered evidence, what evidence looks like, and how it connects to the theory they develop.
  6. During the independent exploration time they will record observations about their surroundings that they feel will help them inform their story of the histories to Bainbridge Island.
  7. After independent exploration they will get in pairs to exchange their finding and preliminary theories.  They will be encouraged to develop a story using both perspectives and provide evidence for their theories to present to the rest of the group.  You should help them articulate and refocus the claims and theories if they get far beyond the scope you are working in.
  8. Repeat independent exploration time and grouped collaboration time at different locations throughout the activity as much as needed.  Vary the partnerships and group size.  The latter groupings can be coordinated by shared theories as they become more developed and concrete. 
  9. To conclude the activity, give the groups time to meet and coordinate their theory.  Remind the groups they need to back up their claims with the evidence they have compiled throughout the activity.

Clues can be found here:

Supplemental Activities:

Subjects, Locations, and Materials for Explanation available:

Keep in Mind:

  • It is ok to not know about everything and to tell the students you do not know
  • It is ok to feel discomfort when talking about cultural histories, and to let your students know
  • Emotional safety is of concern when working in small groups and in presenting to the whole team. It is necessary to emphasize that there are no wrong, silly, or stupid ideas when arriving at theories of what happened. Being correct is not the focus of this activity. It is important that we respect one another’s ideas and support them by attentively listening when it is not our own turn to share ideas.



  • History is a compilation of multiple stories and perspectives.
  • The land gives us clues to the story of a place.
  • It is ok to disagree to have different perspectives.
  • Including more than one perspective provides a more complete story.
  • Did students develop a theory from evidence, or develop a theory and pick evidence to support it? Is that important?
  • What does the story of the land the students come from tell?
  • How does the story of Bainbridge Island relate to their personal experiences or culture?

Additional Follow-up Activity:


This short lesson makes links between the information the students have learned during the History Mystery lesson and what that could mean for them as stewards of their spaces. It attempts do so in an interactive and fun way using the children’s book The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Links between Bainbridge history and stewardship are made most clear if the children have watched the “Memories of a Mill Town” film in the Video Alcove.


Students will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of a story as a method of passing on a message.
  • Observe and collect evidence to formulate links between Bainbridge Island history and “The Lorax”.
  • Exchange ideas and theories with peers to revise or reinforce their own thinking.
  • Continue to learn about the cultural histories of Bainbridge Island and the Puget Sound.


  • Student contributions to group discussions.





Lesson Plan:


The lesson should take place in the garden. Introduce the book The Lorax to your students; before you start reading, ask them to try to find links between the story and what you have been learning during your history Mystery lesson. Ask them to put their hand up when they have a link and that you will call on them when they do.

The Activity

Read the book and listen to the student’s suggestions of potential links. Here are some potential links:

  • The sneed factory as the mill.
  • They both shut down for slightly different reasons.
  • They both impacted the environment and ecosystems.
  • The Onceler’s family can be compared to the people that came from all over the world to work at the mill.

Focus on the second to last page of the book where the Onceler finally understands what the Lorax meant with his final word “Unless”. Discuss how unless people choose to make an impact, it is hard to make change.

  • Share with your students that they are now getting an opportunity to give back to the IslandWood community by planting seeds to be left in the garden for other students to harvest later.
  • Use the secret of the seed method to show them how to plant their seeds in the milk cartons.
  • Make sure to have them create a sign for their plants that says their school name and that they all sign it.
  • Once they have planted their seeds ask them some debrief questions:


  • How does this lesson link to the history mystery?
  • How could you apply this knowledge in other contexts?
  • Can you think of a small way you could positively impact your home community?

Tim Ichien (Class of 2015)