Just as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the school year, the same has been true of summer vacation. Family trips, long days spent with friends and other classic summer activities are largely on hold this year.
Faced instead with a summer of sheltering in place and social distancing, Springer School’s PTA launched a scavenger hunt to keep the community connected.
The hunt features 165 missions to date, including taking a bike ride down Stevens Creek Trail, finding the Pikachu hiding in someone’s front yard and sending a letter to the principal. Challenges continue to be added. The missions are posted on GooseChase, a scavenger hunt app where participants can upload pictures, videos and other evidence of each mission they complete.
“I had a really fun time doing it,” said incoming fifth-grader Josh Hannan. “It made my summer a lot better, because I would have been sitting around the house all day. But instead I’m motivated and get to go places in our neighborhood.”
His younger sister Ashley, who will be starting third grade in the fall, agreed.
“I would probably be around doing nothing,” Ashley said. “And now I get to do hikes and go to cool places and do walks around the block.”
On the first day the scavenger hunt went live, Josh woke Ashley up at 5 a.m. so they could get started on completing the missions. Turns out, the scavenger hunt didn’t go live until later that morning. Once the hunt did start, the pair set off trying to complete all of the challenges.
One of Ashley’s favorites was hiking Black Mountain, which took approximately four hours. For Josh, one of the best ones was baking a rainbow cake, where each layer is a different color.
The goal was to have a diverse array of missions, so there is something to suit everyone’s tastes, said Mark Blackman, one of the parent organizers. Some missions could be completed at home, like baking the cake, while others involved venturing out into the neighborhood or broader community. Organizers also added missions meant to support the business community, such as getting takeout from a local restaurant.
Some of the missions bring participants to “gems” in the area that they may not know about, Blackman said, like the historical Rengstorff House.
“Not everyone’s grown up here and lived here their whole lives,” Blackman said. “It was a fun way to introduce some historic points of interest as well.”
Parent Kirsten Tashev, who helped create the scavenger hunt, said that with everyone stuck inside, she wanted to find ways to create a sense of “discovery and adventure” for kids in their own neighborhoods.
“All we could really do was walk around the block a few times,” she said. “How do you turn that into an adventure?”
Some missions challenged participants to find quirky things in the neighborhoods surrounding Springer – like the Pikachu in the bush. Those were some of Meghan Strange’s favorites. The incoming sixth-grader said she didn’t have any one favorite mission, but liked getting the chance to find hidden objects in her neighborhood.
Meghan’s mom, Heidi Melander, said the scavenger hunt has been fun for their family to do together. In particular, Melander said she liked that it was participatory, with parents and students able to submit proposed missions.
But Meghan took it a step further. Beyond just creating new missions for Springer’s scavenger hunt, she used the GooseChase app to create a separate scavenger hunt for some of her friends who go to other schools.
“It was really fun doing it with my school, so I was like, ‘Why not do another one with my other friends?” Meghan said.
Springer’s main scavenger hunt has seen about 170 families participating, with more than 5,000 missions completed. Throughout the summer, organizers have released more missions for kids to complete.
At first, incoming third-grader Cameron Stevens said he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to do the scavenger hunt. But once his family downloaded the app and his mom took him on bike rides to complete the missions, Cameron said it became fun. As of last week, Cameron had completed all of the missions on the app.
“It gives me actually something to do during quarantine, so I don’t have to just stay at home and stay inside,” he said.
Josh and Ashley’s mom, Vanessa Hannan, similarly said the hunt has given her kids the motivation to get outside and explore.
“This scavenger hunt has definitely helped a ton,” Hannan said. “It gave us an adventure every day.”