Interactive Field Trips

Do you remember going on field trips when you were a kid? I sure do. Anything that got me out of the classroom and into the real world scored big points with me. Back when I was in schonl (the dark ages!), field trip locations fell into two categories: museums or businesses. For example, we went to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles one year and on a tour of a bakery another. I remember being shuffled around in a large group from display to display. Unless you were at the front of the pack, you couldn't hear what the tour guide was telling you, and you'd lose interest.

While I'm sure school groups still go to museums and take tours of local businesses, many teachers are looking for something more interactive for their students. Something that will be both educational, engaging and, dare I say, fun.

One teacher, Rene Vela, from Culver City, California, was looking for this exact combination of educational, engaging and fun, when he discovered an urban scavenger hunt tour in downtown Dallas. Vela was taking a group of students to Texas for the Student Television Network (STN) conference. He wanted something fun and educational and interactive for his students to do during one of their free periods. He found a scavenger hunt that was guided from a smart phone.

Scavenger hunts have gained in popularity every since shows like the Amazing Race have brought them to national attention. Many museums, historic areas and art walks have started to incorporate some type of scavenger hunt into their offerings. Teachers can search the Internet for scavenger hunt tours or contact the museum of their choice and ask what type of interactive game or scavenger hunt they have for school children.

The Dallas scavenger hunt game was a 2.3 mile walking tour leading students through Dallas's downtown historic district and among historic monuments, pass great works of art and to the site of a national tragedy. (Can you guess where that was?) Students had to solve challenges and complete puzzles in order to receive another clue that would lead them to their next location. The game itself kept track of the score and time, fostering a spirit of competition between teams.

Because clues can run the gamut from math puzzles to word searches, from cyphers to word scrambles to picture puzzles, a variety of thinking processes are used. With a team of 4 to 5 students, the odds are good that there will be one person on a team who will have the skills or knowledge to figure out the puzzle. The puzzles also encourage cooperative thinking where two, three and four heads are better than one.

"My class had an absolute blast in completing the scavenger hunt in Dallas, Texas. We got to see interesting things in the Downtown Dallas area that we would have never seen if not for the Quest. My students said it was one of the most fun things we did on our trip," said Kevin Matsunaga, teacher, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Lihue, Hawaii.

This type of interactive learning keep kids engaged in the topic at hand. Plus, as an added bonus, interspersed among the puzzles and challenges were facts, history, and local trivia making sure students learn something about the city they are visiting as they play the game. Interactive field trips that engage all the students, not just the ones at the front of the pack, will make going on a field trip a whole new experience.

Christie Walker has been a journalist since 1980, working for local newspapers, trade publications, and magazines. Her new busines, is a smart phone guided, scavenger hunt walking tour of 13 U.S. Cities. You can contact her at:

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