Creating Educational Scavenger Hunts Using Google Forms
Over the summer, my son and I tried to find interesting things to do around Jerusalem. After a little online research, I found a company offering some exciting scavenger hunts around the country. There was a phone number to call and schedule a hunt, and I excitedly started dialing. The “tour operator” explained that the tour is designed for groups of 8-14 members, and costs the equivalent of $400US. Shocked, I thanked the lady and hung up the phone.
When I told my son about the call, he was quite disappointed. After all, this was the only exciting-sounding activity we found. With a Maker attitude, I asked him if he would like to create our own scavenger hunt. “Let’s go to the Mall, find interesting shops, snap some shots, and create a scavenger hunt for your cousins”. I was delighted to see his face glowing again, and within five minutes we were ready to go. Mobile phone and a clipboard in hand, we headed to the mall.
After completing our short assignment, which included running around from shop to shop, him posing in front of interesting objects as markers, deciding on clues, and what the grand prize would be (ice cream, of course!), I came home and was ready to put the clues and images into Google Forms. I knew that the Response Validation option in Google Forms would allow me to lock areas until answers were entered correctly. From there, it was simple. I entered clues and the correct answer, typed in an error message, and voila! The Hunt was ready in no time. We even decided to create an easy version (with image clues) and an advanced one (without the images)!
My son was so excited to not only run around, take notes, and create a scavenger hunt, but also to be of use to others (his younger cousins, in this case).
As an educator, I realized the potential of creating and using scavenger hunts to engage my students and quickly assess their progress (or just let technology do the dirty work…).
There are two versions of these scavenger hunts- an active and a passive one. The active version allows students physically run around and look for clues. The passive one means hunters work from the comfort of their chairs- using their devices, they search for clues within the dungeons and dark corners of the Internet.
I started exploring the classroom application of scavenger hunts by creating a simple, passive “Around the World” scavenger hunt (you can copy it here), in which students were to find information about different continents by conducting Web search and watching videos. I then moved on to create an active scavenger hunt for new students. It was composed of locations as clues and required file uploads as evidence. The new students were paired with a returning student (their “buddy”) and were tasked with finding key locations (Office, Counselor, Lunchroom, etc.) and taking different selfies (sometimes silly, sometimes serious) to show they found the place.
Next, I decided to take it one step further, and look for a more educational application in my classroom. My esteemed colleague, Jill Fenn, was one step ahead of me and already created a scavenger hunt to assess her students’ reading comprehension of the fantastic book Freak the Mighty. Willing to share her intellectual property and hard labor, she allowed me to digitize her scavenger hunt and test it on my own 5th graders.
This hunt (answers; make a copy) needed to be more complicated than the previous one, but not as complicated as the scavenger hunt around the Jerusalem Mall. The clues were already made, so all I needed was to decide how hunters will show their understanding (taking a picture of an object? Solving a puzzle hidden around school?) I decided to have them reach the place, find a particular marker, and enter it into the Form. Using Response Validation, they will be able to know if they found the correct answer.
Students were extremely excited to get into teams and do the scavenger hunt. Actually, they were so excited, they even forgot to eat their lunch…
What to Look For
When creating scavenger hunts in Google Forms, you need to be familiar with a few features:
- Media Use- You will need to insert a variety of media (images, videos, etc.) which would serve as the hunting grounds (where the clues are hidden).
- Sections- All questions are entered within the Form’s Sections. All questions entered in one section are viewable at once, while questions entered in the following sections are locked until the hunter correctly answers all questions in the previous section.
- Response Validation- This option (the 3 vertical dots at the bottom of questions) allows you to set one correct answer (or a range), which, until it is entered in the correct spelling/ format, the answer is marked as “incorrect”, hence hunters will be unable to move on to the next section until all questions are answered correctly. You can use answers in the format of numbers, dates, letters, etc. Note that the correct format in Response Validation can make it frustrating to students, so make sure your instructions are very clear and specific.
So… Why should teachers create digital scavenger hunts as educational activities? Let’s look at their benefits:
- Engagement- Kids love running around and finding clues (both physically and electronically). They are so immersed in the mystery and excitement, that they don’t even consider it an educational activity.
- Collaboration- When looking for clues, the more hunters the better- everyone is valuable, and everyone contributes to a common goal.
- Independence- All students need is a device. The rest is already there for them!
- Repetition- Digital scavenger hunts allow you to use clues as many times as you want since no one takes them along their hunt.
- Assessment- When students solve clues, it indicates they understand the content of the scavenger hunt. When they get stuck on a clue, you know where you need to re-teach!
13 years of international education
Currently: Grade 5 teacher at International Community School of Addis Ababa (ICS-Addis), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Twitter Handle: @eduronen