A Little Bit of Social and Academic Fun
Need a great idea for your next school wide climate day? Picture this scene. Kids working happily in pairs, contemplating where the next clue might lead them. They know there is a great reward when their hunt is done. Where are they? Summer camp? A birthday party? An outdoor adventure? A museum? No, they are blissfully at school.
How do we create such a secure, encouraging, and nurturing setting? How can we support the social and emotional learning (SEL) or endorsement for the mental health of all children in school? We know that social and emotional learning helps learners to be prepared, gain friendships and to learn about themselves. Kids need not only academic instruction, but must also be taken care of emotionally. Social and emotional approaches can reap so many benefits, especially in the prevention of children’s mental health problems.
How can this be done?
One way is in the undertaking of school wide scavenger hunts. Teachers and counsellors can watch and make notes on how children are getting along. How are they being treated by others? How do they interact with others? Are they happy to be involved?
How do school-wide scavenger hunts work?
Each students can be given a checklist. When each task is achieved a volunteer or teacher signs or initial the learner’s checklist. Students can also be given one part of a puzzle or treasure map after finding a solution. The pieces need to be joined together. Once all checks or pieces have been collected, each student wins a prize. The prize might be from a wish list or something that is useful, like magnets, dominoes, art supplies, or even a grab bag of different items.
Hints might be given by volunteers or aids on where each clue might be hidden. Students might work in pairs, trios or alone to solve problems, or find clues. The kids need not stay with the entire troupe for the whole time, They each have the freedom to work alone, or find other friends for their expedition.
Does that mean we must give up on academics for a whole day?
I think that once a month or every other month might be nice for an amusing afternoon. Scavenger hunts can be a large undertaking, but if you have teams of teachers, and volunteers from the community that specialize in a topic, the process can be made simple. Sometimes, teachers or helpers might use the same clues from year to year. But, in general, it is nicer to have new ideas and components than used, or old ones.
Where might we have an academic scavenger hunt for kids?
If your school has a large gymnasium, or a lunch room, grade levels scavenger hunt could happen there, say for middle school kids. Another choice could be having stations in the hallways for certain grade levels.
Otherwise, “the littles” or small children can be combined. The 1st, 2nd or 3nd grade teachers can hide the clues in their classroom and have clue stations. The 1st grade kids enter their own and other 1st grade rooms for clues. The 2nd grade children enter their own and other 2nd grade rooms for clues, and so on.
So, who makes up the academic clues?
The teachers and volunteers do, of course. A team of teachers could make interesting clues, but don’t forget music, art, physical education, Spanish, French or other language education in this pursuit. Clues should suit the academic needs of your students
What about these stations?
Station designs can be made with good old cardboard and paper mache (Papier Mâché). There are many wonderful design books. Once, one of my friend’s mother created a giant lady bug. I have made castles, (a large set for a play), a small castle for reading, and a spindle. I am no artist! Kids could help build and design the stations before the event with the help of adults.
How do we go about this?
Sometimes, school teams can make up one theme and involve many subject matters. For example, let’s say that most of the kids are learning about Australia in social studies. So, your theme is about Australia. Now think of a title for the scavenger event, such as, The Mysteries of Down Under. Some panels could research facts about Australia. Then each worker prepares a certain number of clues.
For example, math teachers could make math word problems for several grades. Social studies teachers could make a map of Australia and have students locate the places where certain peoples live, or work. Learners then answer questions to a short reading. Science for primary could have a station where small stuffed animals are hanging from a fake tree. A young learner could hold a koala as he or she listens to a recording or video about this marsupial. Then, he or she chooses a paper object, such as eucalyptus leaves, that relates to the koala.
What does the teacher do doing the actual scavenger hunt event?
First, there is limited structure or regulations beside usual reminders such as “no running in the hallways” or other safety concerns.The teacher’s, helpers, or guidance counselor’s role is to:
a. give hints to clues
b. provide other examples, if needed
c. gauge students’ progress (make notes…how are they getting along? Is the student laughing and with friends, or mainly left alone?)
d. assist in advancement (make notes…maybe pair up 2 or 3 kids not normally together to work and talk together)
e. intercede as needed in group activities (switching up pairs at times, subject assistance)
Lastly, have no doubts that each student can benefit from this event!
If your school has taken on this academic and mental health school adventure, please tell me of your experience. What worked out, what didn’t? If you have any questions, let me know! Contact Lynn
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Choff.com (n.d). Too cool for school? Organize a classroom scavenger hunt. Retrieved from http://www.chiff.com/a/scavenger-hunts-school.htm
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (January, 2008). Connecting social and emotional learning with mental health. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED505361.pdf
Gubi, A., & Bocanegra, J. (2015). Impact of the common core on social-emotional learning initiatives with diverse students. Contemporary School Psychology (Springer Science & Business Media B.V.), 19(2), 98. doi:10.1007/s40688-015-0045-y
Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2009). Models of teaching (8th ed). Pearson Education, Inc.
Moesser, J. (July, 2016). Summer learning: How to make an educational treasure map. Retrieved from http://momitforward.com/educational-scavenger-hunt/