Everything You Need to Complete the Journey North Mystery Class

Have you heard of the Journey North Mystery Class by Annenberg Learner? It’s a global CSI where you compare the seasonal changes in sunlight and other clues to identify ten mystery sites around the world. It takes place every year in the weeks leading up to the Spring Equinox.

The Mystery Class is the ultimate homeschool unit study that includes science, geography, and math. Yes, I said math, but it’s nothing a homeschool mom can’t handle. So get out that globe and let’s get to work.

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Not As Hard As it Looks

When I first heard of the Journey North Mystery Class years ago, it went right over my head. I blame that on pregnancies and small children. However, in 2016 we dove in wholeheartedly and had a wonderful time.

So this for all the homeschool moms out there who go to the Mystery Class site and their eyes glaze over. It is so full of information, and you can quickly reach maximum overload. I know, I’ve been there, but I’ve got you covered.

Here are the quick and easy steps to get you and your kids learning more about seasons and time than you ever thought possible.

What Do You Need for the Mystery Class

Here are the basics you need to start the Journey North Mystery Class:

That’s it, and you don’t need all of this to start, just a pencil and paper will suffice.

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What Do You Do Each Week of the Mystery Class?

The first six weeks are simple, and you do the same thing every week. On Friday, the sunrise and sunset times for each mystery location are reported.

So for example, mystery site #1 has a sunrise time of 7:10 and sunset time of 16:49. Your job is to take that information and determine the photoperiod for that site.

I work better with am/pm, so I convert the 16:49 to 4:49 pm. With that change, I can determine there were 9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight at this location. What does that tell us? That’s a somewhat short day, so my thought is that this site is in the northern hemisphere since it’s currently winter.

I know that can get tricky, so let’s do one more.

Mystery site #2 has a sunrise time of 05:58 and sunset at 19:55. Therefore, there were 13 hours and 57 minutes of daylight. That’s a much longer day, so we know this location will be in the southern hemisphere.

After you complete your calculations, the next step is to plot them on your graph. I recommend using a different color for each location so you won’t get confused. Some of them will be close.

Journey North Mystery Class

What Comes Next

After you’ve completed this process for the first six weeks, you will begin to draw even more conclusions about the mystery locations. If their daylight hours are close to 12 per day and the weekly change is small, it’s probably near the equator. If the changes are dramatic, they are closer to the poles.

On the 7th week, you get your time clues, and this requires some intense thought, at least it does for me. I’ll try to walk you through.

The time clues are given in Universal Time.


Universal Time is the time used for international record keeping and is based on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England, which is at 0 degrees longitude. Luckily, there is a planning packet to help you through this process.

So let’s walk through an example.  Let’s say that on the given day the sunrise time in Greenwich, England, is 6:03 am (UT). This means that at 0 degrees longitude, the sun rose at 6:03 am.

The sunrise time at Mystery Class #3 is 22:02 (UT). Use this information to figure the difference between the Universal Time of Greenwich and the Mystery Location, which is 8 hours 1 minute.  This time then needs to be converted to minutes so (8 X 60) + 1 = 481 minutes.

So as the earth spins to the East, each degree of longitude takes 4 minutes. Then how do we figure the longitude of our mystery location? 481 minutes/4 minutes per degree = 120.25 degrees.

I know it’s getting confusing, stay with me.

Is it east or west of Greenwich? Look at those two times, when Greenwich is at sunrise the location is at 10 pm, so it has to be to the east of Greenwich. Make sense? So if a sunrise time at another site is 4:32 UT, then it would be to the west. Compare the UT sunrise time to Greenwich, and if it’s later than Greenwich, it’s to the east, and if it’s earlier than Greenwich, it’s to the west.

This is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the whole process. Don’t give up; it can be done.

The Home Stretch

The last four weeks are the home stretch. Each week you will get a clue to help you narrow down the locations and ultimately decide on the city for each mystery class.

The clues allow you to narrow down concentrically to determine the locations:

  • Continent/Region Clues
  • Country
  • State/Province
  • City/Town

This is where Google becomes your friend. Using everything you’ve learned combined with these clues, you should be able to make some pretty reasonable predictions. But beware, some issues will arise and make you think a little harder, like time changes and date lines.

What About the Graphing

The graphing is optional in determining the sites of the mystery classes.

However, I’ll tell you the secret, as you are graphing each week, you’ll notice they are all moving toward a central point. On the Spring Equinox, all the lines will converge which demonstrates how day and night are roughly 12 hours each all over the world that day.

You can participate without the graphing, but it just adds another layer of understanding.

Journey North Mystery Class Quicklinks

I Promise, It’s Not That Hard

It can look overwhelming, but I promise, it’s not that hard. The best way to figure it out is to jump in. And don’t think it’s too late, you can begin at any time and catch-up quickly.

Have fun.

Here’s a Facebook live where I ran through all you need to print and have ready to complete Journey North.

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About Bethany Ishee

Bethany is the mom of six, always-homeschooled children, who one day realized she'd lost herself in the process, probably under a pile of laundry. Her eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between.  While homeschooling her children and writing about learning outside of school, she tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills.

2 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Complete the Journey North Mystery Class

  1. Avatar Tammie Ulrich says:

    I can’t find anything for the Mystery Class dated 2021. Is it being done this year?

    1. I know! I think it’s been canceled due to funding and everything else. The past couple of years they re-ran an old class, but this year it doesn’t seem they’re even doing that. I’ve been trying to think up a way to recreate something similar.

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