CSI History: The Iceman Mystery
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CSI History: The Iceman Mystery

This project was developed as a joint study unit between the Head of History (@russeltarr) and the Head of Geography (@MattPodbury) at the International School of Toulouse.
Its purpose is to provide an intensive and exciting induction programme to Year 7 students and to highlight links between Geography and History from the outset.

How it works

Stage 1: The Roleplay

The first part of the History Mystery consists of a roleplay element led by the teacher, usually involving some props. This is deliberately designed to pique the curiosity of the students. The role card for the iceman mystery looks like this:

iceman role

Based on this initial introductory roleplay, the class is then invited to come up with a series of preliminary questions for investigation (e.g. "Who is this?", "Why did they...?", "When did...?", "What is...?", "Where are we?"). In the case of the iceman mystery, the questions that students came up with as a starting point included the following:

Stage 2: The Images

The next part of the investigation involves showing the students a series of images on the whiteboard. Each image helps the students to formulate fresh questions, amend existing ones or even form some provisional answers.

The images we use in the iceman mystery can be downloaded as a .zip file. They are shown below too, along with the sorts of questions which students came up with:

Stage 3: Deciding upon the 5 Key Questions

On scrap paper, students work individually to identify what they think are the five “Big Questions” that require further investigation.
NOTE: some of these questions may be taken directly from the list; it is more likely though that students will form broader questions which aim to encompass several “mini-questions” from the list.
The teacher then leads a classroom discussion to gather a list of ‘big questions’ and to narrow these down to what we consider to be the most popular five questions overall.
The students then write these five questions down in their sheets. They should also write a provisional answer against each one to reflect what they think is currently the most likely answer.
During this times the teacher can be cutting up the evidence slips ready for the next part of the investigation (see below).

Stage 4: The Information Slips


This question formulation / resolution process then continues with a series of information slips shared amongst the class. One slip is handed out to each student and they use this to come up with a fresh question or (even better) to provide a possible answer to one of the "five big questions".

There are lots of these slips, so students who work more quickly than others can be given a second or even a third slip. Once all the slips have been handed out and analysed in this way, the students are put into groups to compare their findings.

I then 'jigsaw' the groups after this feedback phase: in other words, I create a new set of groups, with each new group containing one member from each of the old groups. The feedback phase is then repeated. In this way, every single slip has the opportunity to be discussed. This is usually a very lively phase and contains quite a few 'Eureka!' moments.


Stage 5: Individual research and write-up phase

Finally, each student produces a written report which is graded against a standardised markscheme.

Specific credit is given to students who demonstrate evidence of independent research: to this end, the teacher could construct a QR Treasure Hunt to accompany the exercise which students could complete at breaktimes. Here is an case study of a QR Treasure Hunt for the Franklin Expedition Mystery.

At the International School of Toulouse, we were lucky enough to have a Google Hangout Video Conference with Alan @geoblogs Parkinson, author of a book on the Iceman. This allowed the students to ask questions directly of an expert witness and added another great dimension to the experience!

Moreover, dedicated Geography lessons in the same week gave a fresh perspective on the entire mystery. Matt @MattPodbury Podbury has written extensively about this dimension of the Mystery on this blogpost.

Video Resources for the personal research phase

Otzi Documentary 1 (1993)

Otzi Documentary 2 (2010)

Otzi Documentary 3 (2010)


ActiveHistory Mysteries homepage

@MattPodbury's blogpost on the Iceman Mystery Project



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