Play and Learn with Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are an interactive way to educate kids about a variety of topics. Whether it’s learning about nature, history, or basic math skills, scavenger hunts can be personalized to suit any age group and interest. With a little creativity and planning, scavenger hunts can be a valuable teaching tool.

Scavenger hunts are effective because while they feel like “play,” children are being taught to explore the environment, try new things, and push themselves in learning. Giving students the opportunity to take (safe) risks encourages them to do the same when facing challenges in academics.

When designing a scavenger hunt, start by selecting the desired learning objectives: STEM, phonics, science, the 5 senses, you name it! Tailor the scavenger hunt to the available space. Scavenger hunts can be adapted to indoor or outdoor locations. Example: Send students on a photography hunt to take pictures of geometric shapes found on the playground.

Incorporate clues and riddles so that kids are engaged and motivated to learn. Students don’t need to be proficient readers to participate. Example: To make the hunt accessible to little learners, hand each team a picture list and a muffin pan (or empty egg carton) to fill with found nature objects.

Create challenges that will help lead students to the ultimate learning goals in areas other than academics. Scavenger hunts are opportunities for practicing SEL (social emotional learning) and physical fitness skills. Forming scavenger hunt teams can foster collaboration, problem solving, communication, and interpersonal skills. Example: Make a P.E. scavenger hunt checklist and have teams work together to pass the ball, jump rope, and hopscotch their way to physical education goals.

Scavenger hunts can help your students develop key skills and deepen their love for learning. By engaging children in interactive and exciting experiences, you are building a learning environment that is both creative and effective!

Stephanie Standley M. Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. She received her undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Psychology as well as a Master of Education-Literacy from the University of San Diego. Stephanie has 12+ years of classroom experience as a teacher and currently supports students in Special Education. She is inspired to use evidence-based practices to educate children in creative and engaging ways.