For Teachers

What's It About?
You, the reader, are a medical investigator on vacation in Idaho. You are called in to investigate an outbreak of salmonellosis, an infectious disease. In this case, the disease is caused by the Salmonella paratyphi A bacterium, typically spread from human to human by contaminated water or food. You interview the people known to have had contact with the victims, and determine who the disease carrier must be through deductive reasoning.

"Two Forks, Idaho" has four parts. In the first part, you meet the characters and enter the story. In the second part, you interview the characters and investigate the facts. In the third part, you attempt to solve the case, and activate hints if necessary. When you solve the case, you enter the fourth part, which concludes the story, summarizes the scientific analysis you did to solve the case, and gives you links for further research into the story themes.

The story has two layers of built-in interactive hint structures.

First, after you do your research, you have an option to solve the mystery or continue for a further hint. If you choose the hint, the story progresses a bit further, you receive a helpful hint, and you again have the option to "solve" or "continue for second hint." If you choose to continue, the story progresses yet further and you receive a second hint. Yet again you have the option to solve or continue, and if you continue the story progresses even more and gives you a third (and very useful) hint.

The second hint structure is built into the solve-it mechanism. If you pick an incorrect solution, the story tells you what piece of evidence you overlooked and suggests productive ways to think about the problem. If you pick a solution that is valid but not likely, you are congratulated on your reasoning and asked to find a solution that is even more likely.

It takes an average reader about 30-40 minutes to get to the first "solve-it" page, and 20 minutes or so to solve the mystery and read the Epilog.

Solving The Mystery:
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 pencil 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 "Victim." "Disease," "Victim's Food," "Events" and so on.
  • Evaluate your information. Is this a fact or an opinion?


Medical science, human health, biology, microbiology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, hygiene and food safety. The mystery tests your literacy, problem solving skills and deductive reasoning.

Is It True Science?
The narrative itself is fictional, but the scenario is based on actual events and contemporary science research and discoveries.


How Do Teachers Use This Mystery?
Science mysteries such as "Two Forks, Idaho" 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

To see the other science mysteries available at Access Excellence, visit the Mystery Spot:



Created by Ken Eklund, writerguy
A Science Mystery originally developed for Access Excellence

Characters in the Story All About Our Mystery Back to the Home Page