In late January I posted an announcement about the Journey North Mystery Class project that was about to start. This has been our first year participating in the project, and I have to tell you, we are having the best time. Can’t believe we haven’t done this before!
We’re about halfway through the project, and it gets more exciting by the week. Here’s Journey North‘s description:
The Mystery Class investigation is an 11-week hunt in which students try to find 10 secret “Mystery Classes” hiding around the globe. The changing amount of sunlight at each site is the central clue. Students take an inspiring journey from knowing only sunrise and sunset times, to discovering exact locations of the 10 Mystery Classes. Mystery Class begins January 30 and ends May 5, 2006.
Here’s how it works. Every Monday we visit this website to find out our local sunrise and sunset times for that day. The amount of daylight between sunset and sunrise is called the photoperiod. Week by week, we have recorded each Monday’s photoperiod on a graph, watching our hometown photoperiod get longer and longer every week. The gray days of February were made a little less gray by the knowledge that we had some twenty minutes more sunshine every week.
Every Friday, Journey North sends out sunrise and sunset data for the ten Mystery Classes. Using this information, we calculate the ten Mystery Class photoperiods and add this data to our graph. (We are working as part of a group with other families from the 4RealLearning message boards; each family calculates the data for one Mystery Class, and we pool our results.)
Here’s what our graph looks like so far. (Click to enlarge.) You can see how almost all the lines are on their way to converging at a central point: that’s the 12-hour photoperiod line, which is where everyone will be next Monday, March 20th, on the vernal equinox.
Almost everyone, that is! Mystery Class #6 has been enjoying 24 hours of daylight since the project began. This means they’re somewhere in Antarctica…You can (faintly) see their line at the top of our chart.
The photoperiod data is helping us narrow down the latitude of each Mystery Class. By comparing each Class’s photoperiods to our hometown photoperiod, we are able to make guesses about how far north or south of the equator these hidden classes might be.
This week was a big week: Journey North released the longitude clues. To help us calculate each Mystery Class’s longitude, we were given their March 20th sunrise times in Greenwich Mean Time. By calculating the number of minutes between Greenwich’s sunrise and each Mystery Class’s sunrise and dividing by four (because the earth spins one degree longitude every four minutes), we have been able to determine each Class’s longitude, including whether they are east or west of Greenwich.
So now we’re really narrowing it down! Jane and I are beginning to make our guesses about where the Mystery Classes are located. In the weeks to come, Journey North will give us additional clues about culture and terrain. In late April, our group and others all over the world will submit our guesses, and the following week Journey North will post the answers.
Already we have learned so much during this project. Never again will I have trouble remembering which is latitude and which is longitude. There has been a lot of math and a lot of globe-spinning. (Mr. Putty has been getting a workout!)
If you’re kicking yourself for not having joined in the fun this year, it’s not too late. It would take some serious work to bring your graph up to date, but the data is all still available and it could certainly be done. Or you could just drop in to 4RealLearning and eavesdrop on our group’s speculations. Click on the “Great Outdoors” forum and look for topic threads labeled “Mystery Class.” We’re still collecting longitude data from our group members, and we’ve agreed not to start guessing out loud about locations just yet—we want to give every family a chance to do the guessing on its own first.
And if this isn’t your year to join in the fun, there’s always next year. Regular readers of this blog know that I frequently post links to Journey North—for example, I love the Monarch watch that begins every spring, as we follow the butterflies’ progress from their wintering grounds in Mexico to our own backyards. All of Journey North’s activities are free and tons of fun.
Interesting related links posted by our group members:
World Daylight Map
Daylight Savings Time Map (This site gave us a clue a couple of weeks ago when the sunrise/sunset times for one of the Classes suddenly shifted by an hour.)
On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather (A picture book by Marilyn Singer.)