Unit Plan - Spy Science (After school program for grades 4-6)


This unit is designed for after-school programs for grades 4-6.

This document can be found on the Web at http://www.lifeisastoryproblem.org/lesson/upmlspyscience.html.


Contact the author at DEMcAdams@usa.net.

Stage 1 - Desired Results

Established Goals: What is this?

Utah State Core from Utah Educator Network (June 2007):

Language Arts

  • 1.1.1b - Listen and demonstrate understanding by responding appropriately (e.g., follow multiple-step directions, restate, clarify, question, summarize, elaborate formulating an opinion with supporting evidence).
  • 6.1a - Use new vocabulary learned by listening, reading, and discussing a variety of genres.
  • 6.2b - Relate unfamiliar words and concepts to prior knowledge to increase vocabulary (e.g., settlers: Indians, pioneers, farmers).
  • 7.2a - Relate prior knowledge to make connections to text (e.g., text to text, text to self, text to world).
  • 7.2b - Generate questions about text (e.g., factual, inferential, evaluative).
  • 7.2i - Compile, organize, and interpret information from text.
  • 8 - Students write daily to communicate effectively for a variety of purposes and audiences.


  • 2.1 - Recognize, describe, and use patterns and identify the attributes.
  • 2.2 - Recognize, represent, and solve mathematical situations using patterns and symbols.
  • 3.2 - Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using grids and maps.
  • 4.1 - Identify and describe measurable attributes of objects and units of measurement.
  • 4.2a - Measure the length of objects to the nearest centimeter, meter, quarter-inch, foot, and yard.


  • 2 - A student will cooperate, imagine and assume roles, explore personal preferences and meanings, and interact in classroom dramatizations.
  • 3.2 - Understand the use of visual, aural, oral, and kinetic elements to create and support mood in live theater.

Physical Fitness

  • 3.1b - Perform combinations of locomotor and non-locomotor movements and manipulative skills in activities; e.g., jump rope, relays.
  • 4.1a - Demonstrate personal responsibility for rules and procedures; e.g., manage equipment, stay on task, play fairly.
  • 4.2a - Work cooperatively and productively; e.g., listen to instructions, organize and begin activities promptly, include all members of a group.
  • 4.2d - Demonstrate group problem solving; e.g., involve students of all abilities, divide into teams, adapt activities for varying abilities.
  • 5.2b - Persist when not successful on the first attempt.
Understandings: What is this?
  • Acting techniques can be used to create environments in real life.
  • Careful observation can reveal many things.
  • Maps are useful in communication and planning.
  • The laws of physics and the motion of the earth can be used to make a compass.
  • Mirrors and lenses can be used to see things that might otherwise be missed.
  • Simple techniques can be used to listen to people far away.
  • A knowledge of basic chemistry can be used to send secret messages.
  • Messages can be encrypted using simple techniques.
  • Things can be hidden in common objects.
  • Spy devices can be found online.
Essential Questions: What is this?
  • "How can I seem confident to others?"
  • "What can I do to keep messages secret?"
  • "What can I notice that other people might not?"
  • "How can I see things that are far away or are very small?"
  • "How can I hide a message in plain sight?"
  • "How can I listen to a conversation that is hard to hear?"
  • "How can I hide special things without anyone hiding it?"
  • "How can I learn more about spying?"
Students will know/be able to: What is this?
  • Students will be able to use acting skills to change a situation.
  • Students will be able to notice things that most people miss.
  • Students will be able to draw and use a map.
  • Students will be able to make a compass out of common materials.
  • Students will be able to construct a periscope using mirrors, and a magnifier using wax paper and water.
  • Students will be able to construct listening devices including a parabolic microphone.
  • Students will be able to write with several types of invisible ink.
  • Students will be able to create an encryption scheme and encrypt messages.
Stage 2 - Assessment Evidence
Performance Tasks:
  • Students will use acting skills to gain access to an area that is usually restricted.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to observe things that other people might miss.
  • Students will draw a map and use the map for planning.
  • Students will make and use a compass made from common materials.
  • Students will construct and use listening devices.
  • Students will construct and use devices for seeing things that might otherwise be difficult.
  • Students will write messages using different kinds of invisible ink.
  • Students will encrypt and decrypt messages.
  • Students will create and use their own encryption scheme.
Other Evidence
  • Students will compile their own spy manual
Stage 3 - Learning Plan
Unit Structure:
This unit is structured to mix up the various subjects to keep the student interest, and to provide a mechanism for review of prior learnings. It is designed in such a way that students will, over the course of the unit, compile their own "Spy Manual".
Learning Activities:




Motivate Motivational Model Introduction and Spy Manual

This lesson is intended to frame the course and motivate the students to complete the unit. It answers such questions as, "What will we do?", "Is this going to be fun?", and "Can I really use the things I learn here?"

View lesson plan: html | PDF

Equip Revise Think, Pair, Share Model Encryption 1

This lesson introduces the concepts of encryption to the student and allows the student to develop criteria for judging the usefulness of a particular encryption scheme.

View lesson plan: html | PDF

Other Resources

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