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Secret Agent Camp Guide • Week 6

We're bringing camp home to you this summer with themed activities straight to your inbox. Enjoy a new guide each week as we explore select curriculum from each of our seven summer camps, recommended reads, and inspired videos.  Gather your materials, and let's get started...


  • Have fun!
  • Improve thinking and reasoning skills
  • Build fine motor skills
  • Increase literacy


  • Lemon juice
  • Q-tips
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Narrow cardboard box
  • Scissors or box cutter (with adult help)
  • 2 small mirrors
  • Glue or tape

The amount of prep work required will depend upon the age of your child.  We encourage you to have your child do as much of the work as possible.  The learning takes place through the process.

#1. Invisible Ink

Hide secret messages with science

A secret agent needs to send covert messages to fellow agents.  First, let's experiment with invisible ink...

  1. Squeeze a lemon into a small bowl or shallow dish.
  2. Dip a toothpick or Q-tip cotton swab into the lemon juice.
  3. Write your secret message on a piece of white paper.
  4. Let the invisible ink dry.
  5. Reveal your secret message by heating the paper.  With the help of an adult, hold your message on an incandescent light bulb (fluorescent lights and LEDS won't work!) or carefully heat it with a clothes iron set to high without steam.
  6. Your secret message should appear before your eyes!

#2. Encoding Messages

Literacy and logic

Take your "secret messages" one step further with these five ideas for encoding.  Let a friend know how to decode your message, then try it out.

  1. Write words backwards.
  2. Halve the alphabet and assign new letters to represent letters.
  3. Create your own symbols for the 26 letters.
  4. Read every second letter.
  5. Use pigpen cipher to encrypt a message.
    • Each letter of the alphabet is put in a "pigpen."
    • This type of messaging was used by George Washington's troops and in the Civil War to send secret messages.

Did you come up with a different code idea?  Let us know about it!

#3. Periscope

Sneaky physics

Perfect your spy skills with the construction of your very own periscope.

Start by constructing the top of your periscope:

  1. Find an old shoe box or narrow cardboard box.
  2. Cut a rectangular viewing hole on the side of the box, near the end (this will be the top of your periscope).
  3. On the end closest to your hole, cut three sides of a rectangle, but leave the last edge attached (see the dotted line in the diagram).
  4. Attach a small mirror using glue or tape so that it faces out of the viewing hole.

Now, prepare the bottom of your periscope:

  1. On the bottom end of the periscope, and opposite side of your first hole, cut a smaller eye hole that you will look through.
  2. On the very end of the box (bottom surface), cut a similar rectangle on three sides, with the last side still attached, just like you did for the top.
  3. Tape or glue a second mirror on the flap, as shown.

Final adjustments;

  1. Adjust the two mirrors so they line up.
  2. You are now ready to use your spy periscope to remain hidden while you investigate...

#4. Riddle Scavenger Hunt

Social Distancing Idea

Create a scavenger hunt for a neighbor friend, based on riddles about nearby objects, plants, or landmarks in your neighborhood.  Leave the invitation to participate on their doorstep or have a parent send it electronically.  You can ask them to make one for you, too.

  1. First make a list of the items you will include in your scavenger hunt.  Examples include a door mat, specific tree, doghouse, bike, mailbox, etc.  These objects will be the answers to your riddles, and the places you will hide the following clues.
  2. Next, try to write a two-line poem that describes the function or look of each object.  Be creative with your language.  For example, if your item is a flower, your riddle may be:  "They grow up tall but could be small.  They smell so pleasant and make a good present."  Prepare your riddles on slips of paper.
  3. Finally, decide the order of the items for your scavenger hunt.  Hide the riddles in the proper order, so each clue points to the next location with the next clue.
  4. Give your neighbor the first clue to begin the scavenger hunt, and watch the fun begin.
  5. Add to the excitement by planning a prize for completion.

#5. Virtual Escape Room

Up for a challenge?

Attention, secret agent... You have been selected for a top secret mission.  One of the exhibits has gone missing from Gilbert House Children's Museum, and we need your help.  Follow the clues through the museum to locate the missing exhibit.

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Mysteries for all ages:

Nate the Great Series by Marjorie W. Sharmat

Young Cam Jensen by David A. Adler

Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood

I Lost My Sock! A Matching Mystery by P.J. Roberts

Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren

Calling all detectives...

Kid Detectives Series by Kid Science

Spy Apprentice Digital Escape Room

Photo credits and resources:  Beanz,

Gilbert House Children's Museum

116 Marion St NE Salem, OR 97301