This activity uses Unplugged-style activities to introduce the idea of database queries, and leads to “plugged-in” experiences as follow-up. It has been contributed by Mark Dorling, Digital Schoolhouse, in the UK.

From the abstract:
This report gives details of a series of computing lessons designed to relate fundamental concepts of database use and design to children in Primary and Secondary Education (ages of 6 to 16). The skills and concepts developed in these lessons begin at a very simple level but progress to cover abstract concepts such as Relational Databases. The series has been aligned to match the scope, range and targets recommended in the Computing At Schools document A Curriculum for Computing.


  • Human Branching Databases
  • Human Databases: Introduction
  • Human Databases: Intermediate
  • Human Databases: Advanced
  • Databases: Plugged-in
  • Relational Databases: Introduction
  • Philosophy of Computing: Introduction to databases

This activity concludes with a “plugged-in” activity using a database system. The Digital Schoolhouse Database Detectives lesson is aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils and based on the book Certain Death by Tanya Landman. Before completing the series of database unplugged activities, the class teacher is encouraged to read the book (except the last chapter) and complete a series of encryption activities loosely based on the book, the answers providing pupils with the clues to question the database and identify the murderer.

Pupils use cloud computing technology e.g. Google Documents: Spreadsheets, to collaboratively input data about the suspects from profile cards based on the book. Pupils then perform verification on their neighbour’s data entry before downloading the spreadsheet and importing it into Microsoft Access. After importing the data, pupils first use the filter tool to solve the murder using the answers from the numeracy challenges, then create a report for the Court based on a query identifying the murderer.


Activity description (PDF)


Curriculum Links

Great Principles of Computer Science
  • Recollection
ACM K12 Curriculum
  • Level I (Grades 3-5) Topic 2: Discuss common uses of technology in daily life and the advantages and disadvantages those uses provide.
  • Level I (Grades 6-8) Topic 8: Select appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.