WASHINGTON (AP) — An eight-week online and offline game is challenging the nation’s middle school students to solve an environmental disaster mystery by gathering clues at museums near their homes and working together in online forums.

The game is called “Vanished” and begins Monday. It was developed by the Smithsonian Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Education Arcade as an interactive lesson with scientific methods for problem solving.

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Organizers say thousands of participants have signed up. MIT students moderate the game, and participants work with Smithsonian scientists through video conferences.

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The Field Museum in Chicago and 17 Smithsonian-affiliated museums are part of the game, including the Aerospace Museum of California, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.

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