Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Girl Scout Detective Badge: Make a Decoder Wheel

Earning the Girl Scout Detective Badge has been super fun for Will so far, and it's involved lots of great science, logic, and reading comprehension activities for both kids. Some of the activities that Will has done, and often gotten her sister to do with her, have included:

  • reading about fingerprinting, fingerprinting the family, and analyzing the patterns of our prints
  • reading mysteries, noting the clues, and trying to solve the mystery before the main characters do
  • reading a LOT of books about forensics, detective skills, spies, and codes
  • playing online spot-the-difference games
  • "spying" on the neighborhood every day (sketchy, I know, but it gets her to write without complaint!)
  • exploring the science of black lights and invisible ink pens
The kids also made a really easy, really fun decoder wheel that our entire family now uses to write secret messages to each other practically every day. Here's how:

You will need:
  • two sheets of cardstock (I had the kids choose colored cardstock to help them tell them apart later, but that's not necessary)
  • printer
  • brad--Matt and I had a fun argument in the strip mall about brads, concerning the fact that I wanted to buy a package of twenty-five brads from the craft supplies store, and Matt wanted to buy an only slightly more expensive package of one hundred brads from the office supplies store. I tried explaining to him that in a decade of crafting, this is the first time that I've ever needed brads, and even now I only needed two of them, but the per-brad price was too compelling to him, so now he's in charge of of finding 98 other uses for brads in our lives. Won't that be fun for him!
1. Visit this DIY pie charts templates page, and print out two copies of the circle divided into 26 equal parts on your cardstock. 

2. Around the outer edge of one of the circles, instruct your kiddo to write the alphabet in order, one letter per circle segment. I'm ashamed to tell you that each of my fully literate children had trouble with this task. They each sang the alphabet song many times, sometimes incorrectly (Eff you, Eleminopee!), and Syd freaked out because she all of a sudden couldn't remember which was lowercase b and which was lowercase d. Just so you feel even better about your parenting compared to mine, here are other things that my children do not know: their address, Matt's and my phone numbers, which grandmother is which, the months in order, and what month it is today (I nearly disowned Will outside the public library yesterday. They have a sundial embedded in the pavement, so if you stand on the correct month then your shadow tells the time, and Will was standing there looking at it, shouting over to me REALLY loudly, "What month is it? August? January?"). They can FINALLY tell you their ages, birthdays, home states, and grades, though, so... yay, I guess?

3. Have the kiddo find a dish that's about an inch smaller in diameter than the circles, center it on the blank circle, and trace around it:

4. Cut out both circles:

5. Write the alphabet again around the second, smaller circle.

6. Align both circles so that they're centered with the smaller circle on top, then use an awl to punch a hole large enough that the top circle can rotate after you've got the brad in.

7. Insert and fold down the brad, and you're done!

You can create a secret code by rotating the top circle until the alphabets are misaligned, and then "translating" each letter of your message from one circle to the other circle. Include a key to translation in your message--you can even hide the key in the middle of the message to make it trickier to solve, or arrange a secret family code inside a code to hide the key in plain sight in the message.

Both kids LOVE to write and solve codes using this decoder. If a kid asks me a question and the answer's not urgent (such as "What should I have for breakfast?" I HATE that question!), I'll sometimes write the answer in code ("Leftover butternut squash pasta or oatmeal or an egg salad sandwich" sounds much more fun when translated from nonsense), or if I have something fun to tell them, such as a surprise meet-up later in the day with friends, I'll write it in code and make them solve the mystery:

As a super-secret big surprise for Will's Detective badge sometime soon, Matt's planning a major mystery for the kids to solve together. I don't know if it will involve solving a crime or searching for hidden treasure, but there will be fingerprinting, code breaking, witness interviews, clues, and invisible ink messages involved.

If I take lots of photos, perhaps that will quench my urge to be all, "Oooh, a secret message!" and bump the kids aside to solve the mystery all by myself. Because doesn't it sound fun?

Okay, now I'm going to go tell Matt to make me a mystery, too!

This tute was shared with Keep Calm Craft on over at Frontier Dreams.


Tina said...

We sometimes get caught up in the "price per" debate as well. Here are a few suggestions for what to do with all those brads
I realize the horse one mentions buttons, but brads work just as well. We have actually made some of these.

That decoder is awesome. I might have to see if Emma would be interested in writing a letter in code this week.

Your girls brains as so full of other way more interesting information, that their address and such is pretty low on the list :0)

Oh, and have the girls read Harriet the Spy? Emma loves to listen to the original and the second one (which was written much later by a different person).

julie said...

You are too sweet! You and I both know I need to make those kids memorize their stinkin' address and phone number. They're both going to sleep-away camp for the first time this summer, so I'll just add it to the looooooong list of things I need to get them to act like normal people about before they go.

Because the other kids probably aren't still throwing fits about brushing their teeth and putting on underwear every single day, right?

Tina said...

If only I could control what was considered normal! If I did, I wouldn't feel compelled to explain most of our life choices to other people (and by explain, I mean turn them into our kind of normal...).

I think it's so much harder for kids to learn phone numbers now with most households not having a land line, but two separate cell phones. On top of that, if you move, the kids then need to also learn the area code. We have moved enough in Emma's lifetime that we really felt she needed to know the actually address. But then again, she has always shown an interest in street names and such.

Sleep-away camp. I'm not sure who would be more terrified by that idea, me or the kiddo.


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