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Starring:
Tina Dunn


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"For me, the greatest part of the Arkansas Scavenger Hunt project is that it involves learning on so many levels," Tina Dunn told Education World. "Students are not just learning about our state and local community. They are learning research skills, time management and organizational skills, how to work with other people, presentation skills, and so much more."

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At Southside Elementary School in Cabot, Arkansas, Dunn's fourth graders conquer challenges and add mementos to personal scrapbooks about their state. Initially designed by Melissa Hicks, another fourth grade teacher at Southside, the project was such an overwhelming success that Dunn and the entire team embraced it, and it has continued to grow. Instead of reading about Arkansas and filling out worksheets, students become actively involved in discovering their state, and entire families, as well as community members, often are called upon to help.

"Students enjoy most elements of the scavenger hunt, but often their favorite activities are the ones that require their families to take them places and take pictures," said Dunn. "The take a picture in front of a local fire department requirement often turns into hanging out with the firemen and snapping a picture with them too -- a big favorite of my boys! Or autograph from the mayor of Cabot turns into a handshake and a picture with the mayor."

Megan's scrapbook contains photos of her trip to the state capitol.

Most of the fourth graders have another opportunity to meet with the mayor when he attends the scavenger hunt's culminating event. Those who are awarded at least 100 points on their projects take part in "Lunch with the Mayor" in the school cafeteria.

To earn their score for the Arkansas scavenger hunt, students complete a combination of designated tasks. Activities -- such as collecting a leaf from the state tree or writing an explanation of how Arkansas got its name -- garner five points each, while obtaining a brochure from a state park or taking a photo in front of city hall win eight.

Dunn has received many memorable projects over the years. One student cut her scrapbook into the shape of the state, and another gathered enough leaves to construct a miniature pine tree in her scrapbook. One young man involved his whole family in the project; requirements that included photos always found his younger brothers with him and smiling from ear to ear!

"This project is a big undertaking for most families," Dunn observed. "We are very aware that not all families can take time out of their busy lives to run to a state park or visit the Clinton Presidential Library. Because of that, we try to include enough different requirements that all students can score 100 percent."

Touring Cabot's fire department was a highlight for Tyler.

A visit to the state capitol kicked off this year's project. There, students posed for a picture in front of the building -- completing a first entry for their scrapbooks. Dunn also provides opportunities for students to complete written requirements and research for their projects in class. When its time for evaluation, students help out by looking at one another's scrapbooks and checking off requirements completed. Its a chance for students to discover different ways to present similar material and to talk about their favorite parts of the project.

Publishing the scavenger hunt assignment online ensures that the requirements are accessible to children and families throughout the school year. Before that practice was instituted, students often found that they already had completed tasks such as visiting state parks, and so on. -- during the year, but hadn't realized the tasks were part of the project and therefore had no record for the scrapbook. Now, the project is available online for Dunn's fourth graders and other viewers from the first day of class. In fact, other teachers often contact Dunn about the activity, and she enjoys learning of the ways in which they encourage their students to explore their own states.

"When I see the parents of previous students, they often comment on how much fun they had making the scrapbook," Dunn shared. "Last year, I asked to keep a few copies of projects as examples, and most of my students (and their parents) could not part with them. Honestly, I couldn't blame them. As a parent, I don't know that I would want to part with them either, but as a teacher, I have enjoyed revisiting the scrapbooks of the few students who have left them for me. Those scrapbooks are a reflection of their personalities, and I always smile when I look back and remember those little personalities in my classroom."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

05/11/2007