The Great Reading Cheese Mystery additional notes

As one of the project aims is to encourage people to learn more about their heritage, the project worked on creating a mini Alternate Reality Game aimed at children aged 6- 13 visiting the MERL during the February half-term.

A topic was selected that incorporated the fact that the building next door to the MERL was once a dairy used by the British Dairy Institute, an associate of the old pre-university college. Objects from the Institute and the University are in the MERL, which includes a particularly extensive collection of objects related to butter-making. 

A storyline was then formed, using objects in the MERL that had local dairy connections, for example a milk float and a cheese press.

The MERL had advertised its activities for the half-term week as suitable for children aged 6+. So it was decided to aim for the same age range.

The actual mystery game itself involved children coming along to the ‘forensic lab’, a table with iPads, clipboards, clues and volunteer helpers known as the ‘lab assistants’. Here the children were signed up as detectives, which involved them scanning an ID card which had a QR code on it. The cards and also later clues, were scanned via the i-nigma machine (an iPad secured in a box, on a table) to discover the child’s detective ID number. From there they were given their first clue (a slip of paper with a QR Code on), which was again scanned by the iPad to reveal the location of the next clue. At each trail stop where the clues were collected, the children were asked to answer a question about the objects nearby, which were of course related to the cheese making theme of the mystery. Each clue had to be brought back to the lab and i-nigma machine for scanning, to reveal information about the location of the following clue. The final question asked the young detectives to smell a block of smelly cheese and identify which cheese they thought it was. They were then rewarded with a certificate of appreciation for their help in solving the mystery.