A Barrel of ….???


Last year, one of the activities I did during the first week of school was called “Barrels of Mystery”. I bought two packages of Monkey Key Chains from Party City, which are basically mini barrels of monkeys. I took off the key chains from the barrels and opened them up to remove the monkeys, and then I used a permanent marker to number each barrel from 1 to 24. Inside of the barrels I put small objects such as nails, rice, dice, coins, paperclips, buttons, marbles, magnets, screws, and yes, I also put in some of the monkeys. Each barrel received a different item except for the rice barrel, which was filled halfway with rice. The students were not told any of the objects that were inside. They had to come up with strategies to identify what was in each barrel and they also had to give reasoning for their thoughts. I told the students that I would not tell them anything about the contents of the barrels, but I would provide tools or objects upon request. They just needed to figure out what to request.

Each student came up and selected a barrel. At first there was a lot of shaking of barrels, and there was only shaking of barrels. Then the students started getting creative. They asked for magnets. They asked for scales and balances. They also asked for empty barrels (and I had kept a few off to the side). They compared empty barrels to their assigned mystery barrels to determine the weight of their item. Once they had an idea of what might be inside the barrel they then asked me for that item and then weighed the item to see if they were correct. I had never done this activity before and I honestly had no idea how successful they would be, but they used good deduction skills and I was quite impressed. I think I will use this activity again this year. If you have any ideas of how to make it better, please send them my way.

You can access the student handout here.

Posted by Ilana Cyna

Leave a Reply