2006-06-10 / News

Scavenger Hunts Teach Island History

By Bernie Nguyen

Student groups paying a visit to Mackinac Island are benefiting from a strategy designed to help them experience all the Island's charms: Scavenger hunts. By placing students into teams and assigning them a list of tasks or trivia about the Island, teachers and local businesses have discovered a novel, fun way to introduce Island history and lore to visiting groups while maintaining an atmosphere of enjoyment.

Stephanie Creasey, a fourth grade teacher at Davisburg Elementary School who brings her class to the Island each year, said scavenger hunts are an effective way to get her students to experience the entire Island.

"It's a great way to make sure they go to all the different sites," she said, explaining that the larger group of children breaks up into smaller groups, each with a chaperone, to explore the Island more freely.

Ms. Creasey explained that Davisburg's school has been using scavenger hunts as a teaching tool on Mackinac Island for 10 years, and that she uses travel brochures and her own visits to the Island to formulate the hunt, which includes taking photographs or making sketches, data collecting, and tasks like collecting stickers from the Butterfly House.

"They get very excited about trying to find things," Ms. Creasey said. "It gets them excited about information, and they're really proud of themselves when they turn it in."

She also added that by including questions for students to ask local business owners and residents, the visiting children get a chance to interact with Island residents, instead of just other tourists, and that the visit is an important chance for the students to see a part of Michigan history, a subject which the fourth grade class studies all year.

Ms. Creasey emphasized the value of the scavenger hunt is in its ability to make students pay attention to their surroundings and read signs without simply walking by them.

"It gets them off Main Street," she said. "This gets them out and going."

The scavenger hunts have proved their worth after other strategies failed. Ms. Creasey once handed out a list of recommended sites to visit, but they tended to go unseen as students and chaperones preferred to stay on Main Street.

Al Karaba, an eighth grade teacher at North Muskegon Middle School, has been bringing students to the Island and providing them with scavenger hunts for three years. Mr. Karaba said his hunt is photograph oriented search, designed to help students experience the Island's geographical and historical features as well as its tourist attractions.

"It's a fact that Mackinac Island is a huge historical part of Michigan," Mr. Karaba said. "This really gives them an experience of all the different parts of the Island."

Mr. Karaba also emphasized the importance of encouraging

students to view a visit to Mackinac Island as an opportunity to do more than shop for souvenirs. All the items on his scavenger hunt list, he said, are "designed to get the kids more familiar with the Island.

"We find that it works really well in terms of getting them excited about the Island," he added.

Mr. Karaba's eighth grade scavenger hunt consists of fun items such as finding and taking a photograph with a horse that is at least six inches taller than the tallest student in the class, along with more local emphasis, such as taking a photograph with a police officer or postal worker.

On the Island, scavenger hunts are also used to help guide visitors to some of the Island's interesting features, such as Arch Rock or Sugarloaf. Mission Point Resort maintains several versions of trivia hunts, including a Mission Point trivia hunt, an Island trivia hunt, and an Island photo hunt, said Pat Driscoll, the director of activities at the hotel.

"I try to incorporate a lot of history into it," she said, and by including places like the Post Cemetery and the Medical Center, she encourages groups to explore lesser-known sites on the Island.

Ms. Driscoll said scavenger and trivia hunts are good not only as educational tools, they are a good team-building exercise, and not just for children.

"It's also the adult groups," said Ms. Driscoll. DaimlerChrysler and GMC have used trivia hunts over the past two years. "Sometimes the adults are more competitive than the kids!"

The Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau may seem like an easy way to check off all the items on a scavenger hunt, but Betty Vieau, who gives out information there, says the bureau maintains a strict noanswer policy when it comes to the scavenger hunts.

"The idea of a scavenger hunt is for them to experience the Island," Mrs. Vieau said, adding that she will gladly provide participants with maps and brochures, but won't allow them to take the easy way out.

"If they don't go see it," she said, "they don't have the full enjoyment of what the scavenger hunts were meant for."

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