As we come to the end of the school year, a dreaded conversation emerges. That conversation is around summer assignments. I have often been frustrated by this due to the fact that the summer is often a much-needed break for both students and educators. However, in a year where the term “learning-loss” is looming, the summer assignments, camps, and even school discussion is becoming increasingly pertinent. So my question is, how do we engage students in learning while also providing them the necessary rest to recharge before the school year starts up again? The answer I often come to is to have students explore.

Summer Exploration

Exploration is so fundamental to STEM education. It requires the practicing of essential inquiry skills, encourages curiosity, and builds upon the natural passions of individual students. One super easy-to-make exploration assignment is the scavenger hunt! We often think of scavenger hunts as elementary. While they can certainly be used for younger students, older students are no less curious! I’ve found great success in increasing student engagement when assigning scavenger hunts for my high school students.


Scavenger Hunts for All Ages

Scavenger hunts come in many forms, but I love to create what I will call “introductory scavenger hunts” as a way to let students into the new subject with which they will engage in the fall. This summer assignment simply has students look around their community and find objects that they think are a good example of a certain topic that we will be covering. Students then take a picture of that object and insert the picture into the assignment. This serves many purposes for the educator. It allows me to see what misconceptions students may already have about a subject. It also allows me to see what concepts students are readily connecting with. Finally, it gives me a glimpse into the life of my students’ summer! I’m able to connect with them right away based on the images they show me.

introductory scavenger hunt worksheets

You can download my Science Skills Scavenger Hunt here.

Prepare for Next School Year

Overall, scavenger hunts can be a great tool to aid educators in both engagement in summer learning, as well as informative for the new school year. Try making a small one this year with your own topics! It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to engage students in the process of exploration. You’ve got this!

STEM Universe scavenger hunts

Looking for more summer ideas? Check out of Science Skills or Thanksgiving themed scavenger hunts!