The kids love a good treasure hunt.... and none of them balk at the idea of having to decode (aka read) the hidden message in order to find the treasure. It's learning wrapped up in play and exploration- just how we like it.
My first attempt at a treasure hunt for a group of Kindergartners was a bit of a fiasco. As a mother of a little boy who LOVES anything to do with pirates I figured that planning a treasure hunt for a troop of 15 five-year-olds would look a lot like the ones I had planned for one -only with more "treasure" at the end.
Needless to say, I was wrong.
Staying quiet, following written out clues and instructions all seemed like too much "work" for a group of very excited kids. We got to the treasure eventually but not without cries of "I didn't get to dig with the shovel!" or "I didn't find a clue!".
Certainly there is something in learning to wait and taking turns but i felt like with the excitement of the hunt and my own folly in not providing enough tasks for everyone that the hunt was not the success i had hoped for.
For one thing, I really wanted the kids to work together to find the treasure and instead my first design had encouraged them to raise hands and solve clues on their own. That's the first thing I changed.
Here's what we do that works:
I hide "gold nuggets" (spray painted rocks) in a designated area. These nuggets contain the clues: on one side there is a number and on the other there is a letter. Once the kids find all the golden nuggets they work together to place the numbers in the right order. Once they have 1-16 in place the teacher flips the nuggets over and the clue is revealed. I like to flip one rock over at a time so that we can all sound it out together.
This is a much better system for us because the hunt involves everyone out together looking for the treasure. They get their wiggles out this way and are much more receptive to decoding the clues after they've found some treasure.
What you'll need
-Gold spray paint
-Paint and small paintbrush or a sharpie
-A treasure chest!
~First I decide where i'll be hiding the treasure that will dictate how many letters i need
Example: "Look up in the trees" 16 rocks needed
~Next I spray paint my rocks and write numbers on one side (however many you need to spell out your final clue) and the letters on the other side.
~The day of I usually sneak away during snack to set up the treasure hunt. I make sure to mark off the boundaries so that kids aren't tirelessly hunting for treasure where i haven't hidden any. I also set up a meeting blanket where successful hunters can deposit their treasure and were we can all gather around to decode the message.
Don't forget to hide the main treasure chest!
~When the kids arrive I point out the boundaries and explain about the clues written on the golden nuggets. I explain that when we find a gold nugget it comes right back here to the meeting blanket so that we can decode the message together (otherwise we might have some clues going into pockets and backpacks) The treasure, I explain, comes after we find all the clues.
~Let them loose! It's so fun to see them all running about searching for the treasure together. They are so much more engaged when it comes to counting and reading out the clue.