Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Power of Digital Scavenger Hunts

As a kid, I had a love hate relationship with scavenger hunts. I loved the excitement, the adventure, the competition. I hated talking to people I didn't know. When I was a kids (and it WASN'T that long ago!) it was still safe to roam the neighboorhood knocking on doors and asking for paperclips, bananas, etc. But today? Kids rarely go outside and interact with the world. It is school, home, maybe do some homework, then TV and/or video games. You rarely see kids playing street hockey, or cops & robbers in a front yard. Lack of play is affecting the brain development of our kids. Here is just one article (with references) on the affects:

My point? Maybe we, as teachers, can use an assignment to allow kids to use the technology they are so addicted to AND get out and play.

Ok, more back story, last week, I participated in GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen). Google it. It's put on by Misha Collins of Supernatural fame. It is crazy. It's insane. And I have not had that much fun in a LONG time! It required creativity, problem solving, communication, stepping out of one's comfort zone, and a lot of abnosomeness. (Google it!) The whole purpose? To try and get people to STOP worrying about what others think. To dance in the rain. To try something new. To challenge yourself. To talk to people you have never meet. To send e-mails to CEOs and congressman requesting monkey hat pictures and Beyonce videos. We had one girl on our team who is terribly shy. She took on one of the tasks, had panic attacks over the requirement to talk to people she did not know. But she did it. Her reflection after the event was that she learned things about herself she never knew. She feels stronger and more confident.

I believe education has become too "safe". We don't challenge students to take risks anymore. Everyone gets a trophy, there is no failure. And if you ask a student to do something they don't like, expect a call from a parent. The results? We have an entire generation that think getting a job is "too hard".

So, let's step out of that safety net just a little and challenge the kids in a fun way. Digital scavenger hunts allow students to record their finds/creations/completing of a task, and submit it digitally. They don't have to require students to talk to strangers. But they can challenge them to talk to congressman, potential future employers, people who have lived history.

For example, a history class could require students to send an email to their congressman about an issue that concerns them, record a veteran talking about his/her experiences in WWII, visit a local national/state park or landmark and record the visit with video/photos, visit an American history museum, etc.

Science: record examples of (fill in the scientific term) that you see everyday. Visit the local science museum, collect photos of plants/insects/birds you see in your neighborhood.

There are so many potential ways to wake our students up to the world around them while letting them play a game. And don't forget to encourage their creativity. Have them dress up as their favorite historical person or literary character. Re-create a historical event out of the toys you have in your house. Do a simple kitchen science experiment and video the process, all dressed as Einstein. The potential is unlimited.

My point? We have got to wake our students up to the world around them. They can not just explore the world through Google Earth or view nature by watching Shark Week. We need to engage them in life. Reawaken curiosity and a desire to explore. And I believe digital scavenger hunts are one way to accomplish this.

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