Sink your teeth into STEM by solving a series of food-related mini-mysteries in these family-focused, hands-on activities
Teacher Virtual/In Person
Age Ages 10-14
Category Middle School

Cloverville Detective Agency Mysteries

Intruders. Explosions. Spies. Ghosts.

Cloverville may be a small town, but it holds some big secrets. Join the Cloverville Detective Agency and get to the bottom of such strange goings-on. Can you help the citizens of Cloverville figure out what is happening?

In this program, participants will sink their teeth into STEM to learn about food safety, food chemistry, and food production. As they unlock each new challenge and locate clues to unravel each mystery, participants will conduct hands-on experiments, prepare recipes, interview suspects, and test their sleuthing skills.

Age range: 10-14*

Grade level: 4-8

Time: 60+ minutes each**

* The suggested age range corresponds to the approximate independent reading level of the mysteries. Younger children can also complete these activities with proper support, such as having older youth volunteers act out the scenarios, using the mysteries with family or cross-age groupings, or adjusting the science content.

**Originally developed for online use with families during the 2021 North Carolina Science Festival, the materials can easily be adapted for in-person, hybrid, or remote environments. Each of the four mysteries can be used on its own for short programs or as a set for a longer program. Length may vary depending on implementation choices (e.g., readers’ theatre versus silent or paired reading) and any extension activities.

Cooking Up Confidence Cookbook

This activity utilizes the Cooking Up Confidence! Cookbook by NC 4-H.

The North Carolina 4-H Curricula are subject to copyright and cannot be used or distributed without North Carolina 4-H’s permission. However, the 4-H Curricula can be used for free when working with your local Cooperative Extension office.

If you see a 4-H curriculum that would benefit your classroom, reach out to your local 4-H Agent. Your 4-H agent can work with you to understand how to best use 4-H curriculum, and to get involved locally with additional 4-H education programming.

Cookbooks are available for purchase through UNC Press and Amazon.

“Oh, I am so glad I reached you,” comes a panicked voice on the other end. You immediately recognize the voice as belonging to Colleen Sandy, the owner of your favorite restaurant, Cloverville Chicken and ‘Que. 

“Ms. Sandy, is everything ok?” you ask.

“There’s been a break-in at the restaurant.”

Help Ms. Sandy and save the Cloverville Chicken and ‘Que.

Science Concept: Microbiology & Epidemiology

Healthy Living Concept: Food Safety & Sanitation

BOOM! A loud explosion interrupts your thoughts. You turn towards the sound and realize it came from the Cloverville Grand Hotel. You see people streaming out the door. The hotel manager runs towards you. “Help! The hotel has been bombed!”

Can you solve the mystery of the ice cream explosion?

Science Concept: States of Matter & Physical Change

Healthy Living Concept: Food Science

“Hello, you’ve reached the Cloverville Detective Agency,” you say. 

“Hi. Can I talk to the detective?” The voice on the other line sounds like it belongs to a child.

“I’m the detective,” you respond. “How can I help you?”

“I need you to catch a bad guy, please,” the caller says. The voice clearly belongs to a child. You become worried.

“Who is this? Are you okay? Are you somewhere safe? Have you called the police?” you ask.

“Yes.” The child’s voice sounds annoyed. “I already asked Mom for help and she said the police were too busy to help me with my science fair project. So I called you.”

You are relieved that the child does not seem to be in danger, but you are also a little confused. “You’re catching a bad guy as your science fair project?”

“No! I want you to catch the bad guy who ruined my science fair project.”

Help Sal catch the person responsible for ruining his science fair project!

Science Concept: Chemical Changes

Healthy Living Concept: Food Science

“Welcome to the Cloverville Detective Agency,” you say as you open the door. “Come on in.”

In walks an old man. He nervously twists his hat in his hands and glances around the office. He is silent.

Suddenly, you recognize him as Giorgio Cuoco, owner of Mama Vitale’s Italian Bistro, although he looks nothing like you remembered. He has lost so much weight that his skin seems to sag, and the twinkle in his eyes has dulled with sadness. The man before you now seems but a shell of the prosperous businessman you once knew.

You realize that the last time you saw Mr. Cuoco was at his wife’s funeral last January. Since their only child, Toni, had just deployed overseas, Mr. Cuoco had to scale back operations at Mama Vitale’s until he could hire help. Then, the pandemic hit, and the bistro was completely shuttered until Toni finally returned home last week.

“Mr. Cuoco?” you say gently. “Is everything okay?”

He whispers something so softly that you can barely hear, but the words are unmistakable.

“I’ve seen a ghost.”

Science Concept: Plant Life Cycles & Parts of a Plant

Healthy Living Concept: MyPlate