Mystery Boxes Staff
Lesson Plan Team

Using different sized “mystery boxes” the students will attempt to guess the item inside each box.

Grade Level: 6th Grade

Subject: Science

Length of Time: One to Two 45-Minute Class Periods

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Objectives & Outcomes

The students will be able to sharpen observation skills to discover items in different sizes of unopened/wrapped boxes.  The students will also be able to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with others.

Materials Needed

Observation Page (number will depend on group sizes, boxes) This is a page, with a chart, where the group secretary will write the final guess for each group member, plus the consensus of the group, which they must agree upon.

Prepare ahead of time:  Carefully choose about 10 items with various weights, sizes, and shapes, include items containing an object inside, like a can of soda (liquid in a solid); small can of Pringles; rubber ball; loose toothpicks; a couple of coins; and others.  Use your imagination.  

Find ten different sized boxes.  Place each item in a box.  (Put some items in a big box, heavy items in small box, etc.  Mix it up.)  Wrap each box carefully with plain brown packaging paper or similar wrap.  Use clear packing tape to make them sturdy and long lasting.  Number each box.

One beautifully wrapped, empty gift box.


Opening to Lesson

  • Once students are seated, show the gift box and ask:  How many of you ever wanted to know what was inside a wrapped birthday (or other holiday) package?  How many of you shook the box?  How many of you guessed correctly?   
  • Explain to students that carefully observing things we cannot see may still be observed.

Body of Lesson


  • Allow students to guess what might be in the gift box, pass it around the room quickly.  (Open it at the close of lesson.)
  • Display the ten wrapped boxes.  Place students in groups of 3 or 4.
  • Distribute the Observation Page (one per group) Explain how it is to be used.
  • Allow students to choose a group secretary, or teacher may choose for the groups.
  • Distribute one box to each group.

Guided Practice

  • Remind students they may not open them.  Shaking them is permitted.  Talk quietly to each other.  They are working as scientists.  Work cooperatively.
  • As they discuss what may be in the box, remind students the importance of listening to each other.  Respect opinions of “colleagues.”
  • Rotate the all 10 boxes, or use less of them depending on time, until each group has had a chance to observe and make guesses of what is inside.
  • Once complete, allow each group to share the consensus for each box.  List their guesses on the board for each box number you use.
  • Ask students what the advantages and disadvantages are of working in a group.  Why is it important for scientists to work together?  And other similar questions.

Independent Practice


  • Assign each student to wrap a mystery box to share with someone in class the next day.
  • Allow students to switch their box with another and record their observations.  Allow them to open and discover if they were right in their guess.




Open the Gift Box, revealing that it is empty.  Tell students that as scientists there will be times nothing will come out of their observations and work, but it doesn’t mean they should give up.  Remind them of past accomplishments after so many failures. (Telephone)  DO NOT OPEN THE TEN BOXES.  In science, often there are no clear-cut answers.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Identify students who cooperate with each other and respect fellow “scientists”, rate them using a pre-written assessment rubric.

Modification & Differentiation

Best to have students work in groups of 3 or 4, but pairs will work, too.  Great outdoor lesson.  Divulge the item in each box (not recommended.)  For hearing impaired, use boxes with openings for students to reach inside and feel an item without looking.  Use as opening:  Wrap enough pencils in individual, same-sized boxes to give to each student prior to lesson, let them guess what is inside.  Allow them to open it.

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