Mr. Mugg is stumped. He is a fourth grade science teacher at Markwell Elementary School and an old friend of mine. On Tuesday, he arrived early to his classroom as usual, but there was nothing usual about his day after that. He found a chair overturned by the window, white powder scattered across the classroom floor, and, strangest of all, the canister which always stood at the front edge of his desk was missing. The canister holding the money donated by the Markwell PTA (Parent Teachers Association) for an upcoming field trip had vanished!
Poor Mr. Mugg. He thought immediately of his students. They had been looking forward to the special trip they had been planning since the fall. Each year, Mr. Mugg takes his class on a real-world treasure hunt called geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor game that uses a GPS device to pinpoint the location of anything anywhere on the planet. Most “smart phones” have a GPS (Global Positioning System). On Mr. Mugg’s geocaching trips, students find small boxes, just like the missing canister, hidden in unlikely places. In fact, he had just been showing the canister to his class to explain more about geocaching. Last year, his class found a geocaching box hidden behind a waterfall, and another in a hole in a tree near a nest that had three tiny blue eggs it. A third box lay under a rock at the edge of a pond covered with lily pads the size of dinner plates. Each treasure box has trinkets inside it, one for each student. Sometimes the trinket is a charm that illustrates the natural wonder. Other times it’s a postcard of a bird or another creature that lives nearby. My friend Mr. Mugg loves to teach his students about geography and the natural world. In fact, he keeps a small garden just outside his classroom window. Yesterday morning, when he discovered the crime, he walked carefully around the overturned chair to have a peek out the window. Another surprise: the garden had been disturbed. At that point, my friend decided he must act quickly but carefully.
He was determined to solve this mystery of the missing money, but he knew he had to overcome two things: First, he needed to inform himself about forensics— the science that focuses on solving crimes. Second, he needed to enlist helpers—others who live far away from the scene of the crime and don’t know any of the suspects. While Mr. Mugg doesn’t know a lot about forensics, he does know that the best people to solve a crime are those who are removed both emotionally and physically. Mr. Mugg is too close to his students to be truly objective. This is why he asked me if my class would be interested in conducting this forensic investigation for him. He assigned me to be his Crime Scene Investigator and you, if you are willing to accept the assignment, to be my forensic scientists!
Today, I received a big box from Mr. Mugg in the mail. It contains photographs and drawings of the evidence he found, as well as all the supplies we need to make careful observations and tests toward solving the crime. My friend Mr. Mugg has spent the last few days learning about crime investigation from the best crime investigators there are: the FBI. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the US agency charged with solving the toughest crimes in the country and around the world. Mr. Mugg will share his new knowledge with us as we work through identifying all the evidence we can. Are you ready to help solve this mystery? Mr. Mugg’s students have been so excited about the geocaching trip. Let’s not disappoint them!