For several programs, including our Pathways to Politics program for high school-age Girl Scouts and our NEW Leadership™ New Jersey program, we have conducted a “Women in Politics” scavenger hunt. Several of our NEW Leadership™ partner institutions offer their own versions. (In fact, the original idea came from our partner at the University of Oklahoma.)
It’s essential to offer a variety of activities that get participants up and moving, talking as well as listening, and not confined to a single space for long periods. The scavenger hunt allows us to convey a lot of information without lecturing. Each team of students participates in a series of activities that involve learning, and then each team produces something that informs the rest of the group. Moreover, the hunt is fun!
Considerable advance preparation is required. Steps include:
- Determining what kind of information will be conveyed through the activity. Is it about women in politics very generally? A narrower topic such as women in Congress or political women in a specific state? A general politics/government theme such as how a bill becomes law?
- Identifying stations – locations where participants can go to perform each activity and receive materials. Each station must be staffed, and the stations must be located appropriately for the time of day and year, amount of time provided for the activity, and mobility of participants (e.g. whether any use wheelchairs or other assistive devices that make certain places difficult to access).
- Designing activities for each station, and accumulating appropriate materials needed for each activity.
- Creating the item(s) that each team will collect after completing the activity at each station. For example, we have sometimes created puzzles depicting political women, and each team picks up one piece of its puzzle at each station. Once they have completed the hunt, they have all the pieces to assemble their puzzle.
- On the day of the hunt, deploying staff to each station, equipped with detailed instructions, along with what they need to help participants carry out the activity at that station and what they will give each team upon completion of the activity.
The Women’s Political History Scavenger Hunt
- Participants are divided into teams who work to answer questions and complete activities about women in politics at six different stations. With each completed task and correctly answered question, the team receives materials and information to help them create a poster and presentation about a topic having to do with women, politics and leadership. The team might receive, for example, a puzzle piece as described above, with each team’s puzzle depicting a different woman; they might also get printed information or a url for a website with information about the woman in their puzzle.
- Each team starts at a different station and then proceeds through all of the stations in order, minimizing the likelihood of backups at stations. We have used devices like rhymes to begin the fun as we direct them to their first stations, but they could simply be assigned to starting points; at the conclusion of each activity, they are directed to the next station.
- At each station, the staffer gives instructions and offers any necessary assistance. Participants are advised to work as a team and use the information and materials provided at each station to complete each task. Once the team gives the staff member the correct answer or completes the given task, they receive a clue for or directions to find the next location.
- Once participants have been to all six stations and collected all of the materials for their presentation, they are sent to a work area where we have provided materials for them to create a group poster and a presentation about their assigned person or topic. Finally, the teams have the opportunity to share what they have learned, presenting their topic to the entire group.