Educational Scavenger Hunts and Treasure Hunts

nature-scavenger-huntScavenger hunts and treasure hunts are activities that people of all ages can get involved with and have a lot of fun via participating. Something many people don’t realize about scavenger hunts is that they are quite capable of being used for educational purposes. Gamification is a trendy term in many verticals of the business world right now. In the business world the thought is that people will perform tasks better if they get little rewards along the way to mark achievements and progress. In education, both parents and teachers know that students of all ages learn VERY EFFICIENTLY when there is a game or a even a competition involved as opposed to simple rote memorization. It is with these things in mind that I declare, that scavenger hunts for educational purposes are probably one of the most under utilized tools! The same is true for treasure hunts, and as a rule I’ll be lumping the two together throughout this article. For tons of scavenger hunt ideas you can use just click that link.

Why Scavenger Hunts for ESL

For ESL students scavenger hunts in the form of english clues can be very enlightening. The reason for this is that the types of clues used tend to be direct, but also slightly ambiguous. Attempting to sort through and reason through these types of clues forces students to think in terms of broad concepts rather than in terms of simple word for word translation. This “parsing concepts” vs “parsing single words” is a real difference maker in taking language understanding to a new level. You can check out these scavenger hunt clues and treasure hunt clues to see what you can incorporate into your lessons. Just be careful to choose clues that are appropriate for your students level of understanding (and maybe even choose a few from what you consider to be the next attainable level). If you do it as a scavenger hunt then even if someone isn’t able to figure out all the answers they’ll have some and they can each explain to each other the concepts they used to come up with the answer for each clue.

Scavenger Hunts for Standard Classes

Adults, do you remember anything from biology class? I don’t… well I remember I sat next to Courtney who was very hot. No… Wait! I do remember something from the actual class! I remember going on a field trip and doing a scavenger hunt involving animals and plant life at the nature center. I remember working together as a team to find examples of all of the items on the list so our group could have extra credit (which I needed b/c I spent too much time staring at Courtney). Seriously, that’s mostly it as far as what I remember about that class. Sure, I actually do remember some of the other things, but the things from that scavenger hunt were seared into my brain far better than any of the random book readings we did or lectures that we heard. Why? Because I was involved and because I absolutely had to learn a little bit in order to actually finish the “game”. I was able to be motivated by something other than “not failing”, and that different motivation made a HUGE DIFFERENCE in how much effort I put in to the lesson.


If you’ve used scavenger hunts in your classrooms, or played one with your own kids, you’ve seen how creative people can be when properly motivated. Kids that don’t seem to care are all of a sudden leading a group of the peers in an effort to beat out the competition. Kids that don’t seem to “get” what is being presented in a book can often times pick up difficult concepts by simply handling them in real life or thinking about them from a different view point.

Give it a try. It’s fun for everyone involved and requires an amazingly small amount of effort to set one up when you use the right resources to help you out!

Summer Reading Activities

It is so important to keep our children’s brains engaged over the summer months. Studies have shown that children fall three months behind in the learning progress they’ve made when they don’t do anything in the summer to keep up. Staying academically active in the summer doesn’t have to be dry and boring, though. There are many creative ways to keep the wheels in your child’s brains rolling!

Have a themed dinner night for family and friends. Pick a theme, like maybe the 1950s or even carnivals, and have everyone dress up according to your theme. Find coordinating foods for your theme to serve to everyone. And most importantly, have lots of books on hand about your theme. After dinner, everyone can take turns reading all of the books together.

A great way to bring new life to old books is to have a book swap party. Invite some friends to gather up old books they no longer want and bring them over. As everyone comes in, take their books and set them all up on a table so they are easy to browse. Have your guests gather and mingle in the living room, but, set the books up in the dining room. Once everyone has arrived, file into the dining room so that everyone can choose some new books to take home.

Children can get together with a small group of friends and write a storybook. They can do so in a round robin way, where each child writes some and then passes it to the next for their turn. Or they can collaborate as they go along. When they are finished writing the story, they can work on some illustrations. They might even have fun finding pictures in magazines to use for the illustrations. They can put it all together with some cardboard pieces for the book cover. They will probably need your help with that part, as it will be hard to cut. When it is all done, they can take turns keeping the book each weekend to show grandparents and whoever else they would like to show it off to.

And of course, don’t forget your public library’s summer reading program. It is a great initiative to keep your kids interested in books. They can choose their own books to read for the programs and that is a big deal. It is not only fun for the child, but, it really helps to keep their desire to read going strong. The child who is always told exactly what to read sees it as nothing more than a chore. The library’s programs usually all have prizes for certain numbers of books read ñ and then main prizes at the end of the program. And a lot of the programs have a kick-off party and a party for when it’s over, too.

It can be really hard to catch up when school starts back up in the fall. We don’t have to make kids’ summers all work and no play, but, keeping their brains in operation is imperative for both their general well being and for them to keep up in school.

Math Puzzle & Mind Games For All Ages

If you’re interested in math puzzles and mind games then the site I have picked out to discuss today will be just what you’re looking for! I’ve looked over their free puzzles and samples and they definitely look like something that will keep you thinking without being boring. I’m a bit of a math guy and I’m always thinking up puzzles for my kids to keep them learning… so I was definitely excited to come across this.  Here’s their description of their site… click on their “our puzzle books” link at the top of their page to see their samples… there are a lot. is dedicated to providing challenging number puzzles and games. Starting with children who are familiar with the basic operations (+, -, *,  and /), these puzzles can be enjoyed by people of all ages. These fun number puzzles and games are intended to educate, motivate, exercise, and stimulate your brain regardless of your age.
Here are a couple of example puzzles you will find on our site.

    1. Using the digits 1, 2, 5, and 8, and the basic operations (+, -, *, /), make all the numbers
1 through 50. Each digit must be used exactly once for each number.
2. Similarly, using the prime digits 2, 3, 5, and 7, make all the numbers 1 through 25.
There are many more different kinds of puzzles on the next page, all designed todevelop and enhance your ‘number sense’ and for having fun with multiplication, division and fractions! Grab a pencil and paper, find a quiet place and get started!
Each puzzle book on the next page has at least a 100 puzzles and usually contains many more. We have included over 350 printable free sample puzzles from the books. The puzzle books will be great if you homeschool and should come in handy especially on rainy days or long road trips. These books are good inexpensive gifts for anyone who loves puzzles.

Female Indiana Jones – Mireya Mayor, Ph.D

The other day we did a little write up on nature watching and how much our kids enjoyed learning about the animals living in our backyard and surrounding areas. As I was writing I remembered an article that I had read a couple of months ago about a woman, who used to be an NFL cheerleader, that was a full blown explorer. I did some hunting around and found the story and have pasted some excerpts below. You can read the whole thing at this link on cnn [Mireya Mayor].

High above the jungle of Guyana, an explorer sat perched on a narrow ledge on the side of a mountain so ancient and mysterious that it’s known as “the lost world.”

One wrong move could mean a catastrophic fall, but the visitor was intent on staying for a bit. So a fragile tent went up, hanging by a single pin attached to the cliff wall of Mount Roraima.

Already jittery, the explorer couldn’t sleep. Then a spider the size of a dinner plate showed up.

Welcome to a day in the life of Mireya Mayor, Ph.D.

In her treks around the world, she has discovered the world’s smallest primate in Madagascar, swum with unusually aggressive sharks in Mexico and chased after giraffes in Namibia.

Mayor, 37, recounts her transformation from a sheltered Cuban-American “girlie-girl” growing up in Miami to a worldly animal expert in her new book, “Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer.”

Her exploits have earned her the nickname “the female Indiana Jones,” but the fashion-loving Mayor always packs an accessory Harrison Ford’s character never would: a black dress — “should an unforeseen occasion arise,” she writes.

Mayor, who has two young daughters and is expecting twin girls in July, recently talked about her adventures with The following is an edited version of that interview.

CNN: What draws you to these remote, difficult, dangerous parts of the world?

Mireya Mayor: The animals. A lot of the places you just described, which are the remote oftentimes dangerous places, is where you find the most biodiversity, the rarest of animals that are on the verge of extinction and that we know very little about precisely because of their location.

So that’s what draws me to it, not so much the danger. I’m not an adrenaline junkie.

CNN: You have all these different nicknames: the female Indiana Jones, the real-life Lara Croft, the female Steve Irwin. How do you feel about that?

Mayor: I don’t have a problem with it.

I think that it’s pretty clear by the names you just put out there that there aren’t a lot of women who do what I do.

The interview is interesting and quite a bit longer than I posted and Dr. Mayor comes across as a pretty cool gal. One of the reasons I liked this story is much as I did was because we always try to make sure that our daughters know they can do whatever they want. To steal a term from a terrific book “Strong Fathers Strong Daughters” we let them know that they can be a princess or they can be a pioneer… or they can do both like Mayor here.

For the boys, this is a great story because it is about an adventurer and they get to read about tarantulas crawling on peoples heads and cool stuff like that!

I hope you enjoy it.

Nature Watching as a fun and educational activity

My daughters love animals. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that just about every child has love for some type of animal or another. If you ask someone what their favorite animal is almost nobody say “I hate them all”… so it’s probably safe to say that most children like animals. My older daughter is, for whatever reason, all about nocturnal creatures, but she really has a thing for Owls. She gets so excited when we talk about them, and it is really amazing what she knows!

We live in the city, but lucked out and got a great deal on huge (to us) lot of 2.5 acres. The house sits right up on the front of the lot and the back is mostly wooded, and in those woods live / roam all manner of critter! We’ve got racoons, bats, squirrels, coyotes, birds of all manner, and owls.

The other evening my wife and I decided to take the girls outside right before bedtime and let them observe the owls. We all trekked out about 1/2 hour before dark, found a good sitting place, and just watched and listened. We have a 3 year old and a 5 year old so it was tough to get the sitting still part working, but we were pleasantly surprised with how easily it went. It wasn’t long before the bats showed up. They were a cool sight. I think we counted three of them. Then came the owl calls. The owls talked to each other who-who-wh-wh-wh-whooo for a few minutes before we actually saw them take flight. We tracked them through the trees and talked about what they were doing (which explained to them why we don’t let our chihuahua out this time of night without also have the big dogs outside too!).

The girls thought this experience was so cool! My wife and I enjoyed it also. It was a nice thing that we were able to do as a family. It didn’t cost us any money and the kids learned from it. They learned about dusk by experiencing it, they learned some of the various sounds that owls can make, and they learned how some bats augment their vision with their precise hearing (echolocation) when they fly and why they fly so erratically (they’re chasing bugs and the bug just turned). They even learned a little patience waiting on the animals to show up since we got out there a little early.

The next day we talked to the kids about what happened and what we had seen and you could just feel the excitement and could tell how much fun they had on that simple little trip. I strongly suggest nature watching as an activity for families because it allows them spend some time together and it is a fun, educational activity for everyone involved.

One note though… you might want to make sure you take some insect repellant depending on the time of year.