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Croak - Fact and Fiction




You, the reader, show up for your first day working for Jonathan Pierce, city councilman... only to discover protesters dressed as frogs sitting in his outer office! You need to help the Councilman learn the truth about the declining frog population in the city's Slow Water Park.

You do this by interviewing various people around town, investigating leads regarding pollution, predation, poaching, and more.

Besides the usual Science Mystery themes (literacy, inquiry-based learning, problem-solving logic, inductive and deductive reasoning), "Croak" puts your students hands-on with facts about ecosystems and ecological balance, water pollution, natural and exotic invaders and predators, and more. They learn how to read graphs and evaluate data as part of the mystery.

The "Croak" science mystery has four parts. In the Introduction, you meet the characters and enter the story. In the Investigation, you interview people in the town and investigate the facts. In the Report to Pierce, you submit your solution to the case and then may investigate links for further research into the story themes.

The fourth part, the Solution, is revealed one week later. Each respondent will receive an email from Access Excellence explaining the mystery's answer. (We delay the email a week so that teachers can use the mystery as a test.)

It takes an average reader about 30 minutes to get to the "solve-it" page, and 10 minutes or less to choose their solution to the mystery. It takes an average reader about 10 minutes to read the email solution, which arrives one week later.

We protect the confidentiality of email addresses. They are not used for any reason other than to send the solution. Parents or teachers with concerns may use their own email addresses, and forward the solution to students.

Teachers can assist students in mastering the problem-solving skills necessary to solve a science mystery. Some basic techniques:

  • You should have a pen and notebook at your side, to take notes as you go through the story.
  • You should organize and label your notes as you go, under broad categories such as "Possible Causes," "What the Graph Says," "Predators" and so on.
  • Evaluate your information. Is this a fact or an opinion?
  • Be observant! The mystery contains visual clues.

The narrative itself is fictional, but the scenario is based on actual events and contemporary science research and discoveries.


Science mysteries such as "Croak" integrate science learning within an exciting narrative. They have wide appeal and are thus well-suited to be a class activity.

Typically a teacher will have students read and discuss the mystery during a class period. Some teachers solve the mystery as a class; others allow students to solve the mystery and do continuing research on their own.

Many teachers use the science mysteries to engage advanced students, especially those who may normally shun science.

To read teacher comments about the science mysteries, visit www.sciencemystery.com.

To see the other science mysteries available at Access Excellence, visit the Mystery Spot: www.accessexcellence.org/AE/mspot

We appreciate your feedback.



The frog species Rana viridiana is fictitious. It is modeled on Rana aurora, the red-legged frog. Rana aurora was once found throughout California; it's the frog Mark Twain immortalized in his story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Rana aurora is now in decline over much of its range, possibly due to habitat fragmentation and competitive pressure from an invasive species, the Eastern bullfrog.

For story reasons, we simplified the mystery puzzle, and compressed the time line. In real life, an animal population declines for several reasons, and more slowly than is presented here.

We hope the mystery is useful to you!
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