Center Street School

Earlier this month we were very excited to create a treasure hunt for the Center Street Elementary school in Williston Park, NY.  It was our largest number of hunters (nearly 500 students) and our longest time span (7 days), and included over 100 clues, as well as other activities. For their annual “Pick a Reading Partner” program, they always have a theme with activities and games to encourage reading, and it was an honor to be such a big part of this year’s PARP.

Parents and staff came together to produce an incredible learning experience.  As we touched upon in our last blog, we provided a complete fictional story with the school staff members playing characters. Our clues were designed to hint at and teach U.S. states and solve a mystery! We also provided these clues on three different levels, from Kindergarten to Grade 5.  This larger and multiple-focussed set of clues created challenges and we are also particularly appreciative of the close working relationship with the lead parent involved and the various members of the faculty to provide what clearly was a very successful and fun week.

The sequential nature and pursuit of clues in Treasure Hunts that is perfect in settings of 1-20 hunters, do not naturally lend themselves to simultaneously involving hundreds of children across ages. It is the challenges that help us grow. Adjustments had to be made to ensure everything worked and that school requests and rules were always being followed; in the end, the varied ideas and efforts has provided us entirely new kinds of activities to include in our hunts. The final storyline—that everyone was involved in—may not have made it to the Oscars, and the songs may not have earned any Grammies, but perhaps we were just too late for this awards’ season!

Thanks again Center School Elementary for thinking of us and letting us be involved.

Story Lines

Connections. When studying film you learn how important and overriding sound and ordering can be. You probably thoroughly understand the theory that walking through a forest can feel peaceful, uncomfortable, all the way up to terrifying, based on background music. And most already recognize that dialogue can turn a serious scene into humor as seen in “Mystery Science Theater 3000” or “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (with voice-overs replacing the original script with silly conversations). What is surprising is how easily random images can seem connected by being cut together and then adding a narrator, soundtrack, and/or dialog.  This can be accomplished without “telling” (extensive exposition or recapping) but with “showing” and conversations or moods.  As we are working on a large upcoming Treasure Hunt, we realized this possibility can easily spread to our fun or to any type of party/get-together.

Certainly, a theme party is nothing new. Basing our hunts and clues on the themes of a birthday party or the interests of a hunter also is something we are familiar with.  In this case, however, we are making a story and fitting clues into it.  And, as with all creativity, there are numerous occasions when one of these—the story or the clue—will naturally feed the other as if they were meant to be together and were just facts in nonfiction.  Here, we are making a mystery with teachers as detectives, and when we needed to distinguish between the ages of their students, we realized the natural joke of Detective First Grade vs. Detective Kindergarten.  We were told who would be involved in the story and, from their characteristics, new characters were born adding to the plot. The clues we were making on one theme (geography) were incorporated into the story by being a key plot point (travel).

There is a definite new level of work in taking a game and making it into a themed story.  To such an extent that we have now added “Storyline” as a feature you can affordable add to your hunt. And it definitely needs to have some back-and-forth to make it work; this is why “personalized” is at the heart of our business.  The potential for fun, humor, and something unique is an absolute.