A fellow librarian once told me that library scavenger hunts are a waste of time. She truly believed it.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Well-designed library scavenger hunts are a lot of fun and can serve a multitude of purposes. Whether they are used for library orientation or research skills, they are an engaging teaching tool that transcends the classroom.
What makes a scavenger hunt ‘well-designed?’ Two things. It should be based on a learning objective (like any other instructional material), and it should follow a model of inquiry-based learning. Library orientation scavenger hunts are pretty easy to put together, and many examples exist on the web. Scavenger hunts for research skills pose a greater challenge, and I would suggest consulting with an instructional designer if you are interested in developing one (this makes a good summer project).
I could not find any stellar examples for the latter, but I will describe what one could look like. In a research skill scavenger hunt, students would first be presented with an interesting problem or case (i.e. an issue they could relate to). Any background information they need would be provided at that time. Students would then be divided into groups and each group given a question(s) to research. All the questions together would help to answer the BIGGER question (i.e. the problem or case presented). The students would then explore resources online and in the library. After a period of time, they would be brought back together to share their resources. The resources would then be evaluated for quality, creating an opportune time for students to learn from their “mistakes” – separating the good, the bad and the ugly resources provides valuable feedback. Finally, the students would discuss solutions to the problem based on the resources gathered.
Scavenger hunts are a constructivist approach to learning, very hands off in terms of direct teaching. As the librarian, you are there to facilitate learning (i.e. offering hints where needed).
Designing scavenger hunts is an exercise in creativity. Coming up with unique and interesting problems that pique your students’ curiosity requires brainstorming and teamwork. Creative use of technology makes it even more engaging (e.g. QR codes, social media, mobile devices, etc…). And in my opinion, the best thing about a good scavenger hunt is that it provides an opportunity for situated, authentic learning to take place right where it should – in the library.
So, fire up your gray cells and get creative with a scavenger hunt!