Thursday, May 26, 2016

Keep Students Learning with Summer Scavenger Hunts

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When students walk out of your classroom on the last day of school, chances are that you may not see most of them again anytime soon. It's bittersweet. You spend a year getting to know them, and then you must send them along to the next class. However, your connections and their learning don't have to end. Here's a fun way to stay in touch with your students over the summer and encourage them to use their knowledge in practical, everyday activities: a summer photo scavenger hunt!

The hunt...

Provide students with a list of learning tasks that they must complete over the summer. Students must document their activities with photos of themselves doing the tasks and an activity log that includes a few details about what they did. They upload photos and an activity log to a shared Google Drive. Then, you review what they submit on the Google Drive.

The incentive...

Obviously you can't require students to complete this activity. However, there are some students who would enjoy the challenge. Some parents would appreciate the extra opportunities for their children to learn and to set and achieve goals. You can reward the effort with a gift card or small but worthwhile prize for each student who successfully completes the activity. (Tip: You may not have to pay out of pocket for prizes. Ask local companies to donate gift cards or prizes. Apply for a grant to subsidize prizes. Raise donations through a crowdfunding site.) Your incentive is maintaining relationships and encouraging learning...of course!

How to do it...

I'm going to outline a plan for developing a summer scavenger hunt. (Keep in mind that I have an upper elementary ELA and Social Studies background so you can just as swap out activities based on the subject matter and grade level that you teach.) With just a little prep before the summer comes, you can create an easy activity for students to complete and for you to track.

The technical stuff...

1. Setting up a Google Drive account with an editable folder

Set up a Google account specifically for scavenger hunt. If it's separate from your personal account, you needn't worry about people accessing personal information. 

Next, go into Google Drive. Set up a folder with the name Scavenger Hunt.  

You will have to make the folder editable so that students can upload photos. The downside to this is that anyone with the link can access the Scavenger Hunt folder. However, you can show students how to make their folders private so that only you can see the photos and activity log. This step addresses the issue of privacy. Once the activity is over, you can edit the privacy of the folder so that no one but you can view or edit it.

To get a shareable link for the Scavenger Hunt folder, go into the folder then to the drop down at the top of the page. Select Get Shareable Link as shown below.

So that students can upload their photos and log, choose Anyone with the Link Can Edit. Students do NOT need a Google account to upload anything if they have this link. You will need to share this link with them when you introduce the activity. (Tip: Shorten the link with or  

2. Setting up private student folders

Once you have set up the editable Scavenger Hunt folder and share the link with students, they can create folders within the Scavenger Hunt folder and upload their photos and activity log. It's a good idea to create a tutorial for students about how to upload their photos and activity logs. Model how to do it so they can see an example, too. (You might want to tell them to email you if they have questions over the summer.)

Students will use the shareable link you've given them to create a folders with their names. To do this, click on the red NEW button, and choose Folder. I named mine Aspire Inspire as shown below.

Next, students need to change the privacy of their folders so that only you can see them. Students should open their folders. and at the top of the page, they should see My Drive > Scavenger Hunt > THEIR FOLDER NAME. They should click on the dropdown, and select Get Shareable Link.

When the dialogue box opens, they need to change the link sharing to OFF--Only Specific People Can Access.

Students should then click on the Advanced button at the bottom right of the screen. This is where they will see who has access.

Under Invite People, students should type in your e-mail address. Your e-mail address could be your new Google account or another address if you prefer. Once students send permission to you, you will be able to access their folders to view their photos and activity logs.

3. Uploading photos and activity logs

Students will open their folders, and choose the red NEW button. They should select File Upload.

They will choose from the files on their computers.

Once the file uploads are complete, they will be able to see what is in their folders.

I recommend asking students to send you an email when they have finished the scavenger hunt so you know to be looking for their photos and activity log.

Phew! Okay, now the fun stuff...

For this scavenger hunt, I chose very simple tasks that students more than likely either would or could do easily during the summer. The tasks are related to English-Language Arts, Social Studies, and Math concepts. Some are general, and some are based on 5th grade learning targets/standards (Math and Science):

1. Join a summer reading program at the library. If your library doesn’t have a reading program, check out a few books to read over the summer.

2. Use fractions in a real-life activity.

3. Visit a historical site.

4. Visit a natural site—a landform or body of water.

5. Visit a cultural site or attend a cultural event such as a concert or play.

6. Describe in writing a fun experience that you had this summer.

7. Visit an ecosystem in action such as a zoo or a park.

8. Find a spelling error on a sign or brochure, and correct it.

9. Persuade your parents in writing to let you do something.

10. Plant something—in a flower pot, in a garden, or elsewhere—and show that plants get the food they need from the air and water.

Next, I created the following documents to give to students before the end of school:

1. A printable task list with general instructions;

I did not share the link to the Google Drive on this. That would have to be shared verbally.

2. A set of caption cards that students hold in each corresponding photo; and

3. An activity log for students in which to detail their activities.

Some reminders and suggestions
  • Choose reasonable and appropriate tasks that most students can do. The idea is to make this activity flexible and accessible to as many students as possible.
  • Post the activity documents in the Scavenger Hunt folder on the Google Drive.
  • Remind students to hold the corresponding caption card with the date each activity is completed in the photos they take.
  • For the writing tasks, ask students to show the finished piece of writing in the photo. 
  • Give examples of places to look for spelling errors (#8)--advertisements, news articles, brochures, signs, etc.
  • If there is signage at any of the places students visit, encourage them to take a photo in front of it.
  • While students may take a few different photos, ask them to limit uploading to one photo of each activity. If you have 10 activities, they should have 11 artifacts in their folders (10 photos plus the activity log).
  • For the activity log, give students options to complete it: editing a PDF, scanning and uploading the completed log, or taking a photo of the completed log and uploading it. 
Feel free to use the documents I created for this scavenger hunt! Just please keep the copyright/source info on all pages. Find them here

I would love to hear if you implement such a hunt in your class or if you try out the plan I suggested. Leave a comment!

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