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We sat in a tent drinking water from canteens and eating beef jerky. We tried to guess which wild animals were making noise as their grunts and roars filtered through the dark. Camping in the Savannah frightened my boys more than I had originally intended but then again, sleeping under the stars in Africa wouldn't exactly feel safe if we were really there.
Over the years, nothing has excited my three sons more than a good Adventure Night. With each Adventure-Night theme, I have tried to transport my sons to another world with an exciting themed experience to go along with it. It's difficult to capture the spirit of Africa, for example, from a book or even a movie, so I did my best to recreate it for them. Although intellectually we all knew that we were safe and sound in our own darkened living room, the kids' imaginations took them someplace far away. That night they weren't in Idyllwild, California; they were in Africa, and you could see it in their faces. We all had a great time, and that evening burned into the boys' memories forever.
In previous Adventure Nights, I had taken them on quests for sunken pirate's treasure, explorations through darkest Africa, and even on a Scooby Doo murder-mystery case. I only had to mention the theme to get them excitedly chatting over the possibilities of what I might have waiting. Would they be exploring an Aztec tomb? Learning an American Indian burial ritual? Discovering an underwater research station?
Even though for my professional clients I use hired actors, elaborate costumes, fog machines, and stage settings, these aren't necessary to develop an effective theme adventure. Through the use of cheap costume pieces, period music, and garage-sale junk, I've recreated chapters of history in which to envelop my sons. Once there, they explore the "world" by completing tasks and meeting characters from the era. With each problem-solving task they take on, their brains are engaged in a new, experiential way. Years later they can remember the names of the pharaohs they've met, the knights they've helped, and the cities they've visited-not because of hours of study, but rather because these were people my children met and places my children visited. My kids get to experience the world without leaving home.
Themes Bring Meaning
Themes Make Learning Personal
Themes Bring Inspiration
Themes are Fun
Not everyone has access to stage props, costumes, sound effects, or the amount of free time necessary to pull off an elaborate theme. Fortunately, those aren't necessary to develop a theme to its maximum potential. One just needs to be creative. When I was in third grade I spent four consecutive Fridays offsite with a few other students for some experiential learning on the theme of Medieval Europe. During those few separate days, we made our own candles, constructed armor from cardboard, built a castle complete with drawbridge, and constructed an abbey. Can I remember anything else I learned that year? Not much. But I can tell you everything about those candles! I got some hot wax on my fingers and concluded on my own that, in order to not hurt themselves, candle makers back then must have had a lot of skill!
Tips for Creating Your Theme
A second trick is the effective use of lighting. Don't have any plants but want to create a jungle? Switch out the normal white light bulb in your lamp with a green one purchased at any hardware store. Instant results. Want to transport the children to a Hawaiian-island volcano? Use a red light bulb. Sometimes no light is best. A darkened room and some candles can instantly create the inside of a Medieval abbey. You get the idea.
Something you might not readily think about is the concept of playing with temperature to imitate the "local" weather. Are you in the Arctic Circle? Crank up that air conditioner. In the breezy tropics? Turn on some fans. Outside a Hawaiian volcano? Break out some floor heaters. Simple things but amazing results.
Use period music relating to your theme. Try to avoid music ABOUT the theme; instead, use music INSIDE the theme. For example, don't play "Old MacDonald had a Farm" for a barnyard theme, when you can play music like "Turkey in the Straw" or some square-dancing fiddle songs.
A second choice for music can be the use of movie soundtracks. Professional songwriters and musicians get paid big bucks to create moods and themes with their music-take advantage of all the work they've already done. Try to avoid recognizable themes unless, of course, your theme IS that particular movie.
The use of even the simplest sound effects can produce amazing results. With a single sound effect (i.e. a lion's roar, a spacecraft liftoff, a horse whinny, etc.) you'll create a new dimension to your theme. You can string together a few different sounds (with timed spaces in between) for a more real-life effect. For example, you might string together different animal sounds as I did for my African safari Adventure Night. In addition to libraries, the Internet offers many sounds you can download for free.
Keep in mind the "feel" you want for your theme as you choose your sounds. When I made an attempt to recreate Africa, I wasn't trying to create a "vacation" feel but rather one more rustic and wild. For this I chose some simple jungle drum music I found at the library. Do you want an inviting feel? Do you want mystery? How about enchantment? Suspense? Make sure you know your mood first, and then choose the sound that will bring it out the best.
OLD WEST: Have kids tie various knots and practice throwing ropes to lasso different objects. Give them pie tins and take them in the back yard to pan for gold. "Gold" can be made by spray painting gravel and burying it in mud you've prepared.
ESPIONAGE: Give kids secret messages to decode to reveal the names of specific world cities where hidden bombs have been placed. Then, give them a world map and have them locate those countries and cities. Create an obstacle course for them to go through to test their agility and endurance as spies "in the field." Take apart an old, broken kitchen appliance such as a can opener, toaster, or clock (garage sales are great resources for these) and explain to the children that these are the missing parts to a new decoding machine for the CIA. Give them instructions to deliver the parts to different people and places in the house.
PREHISTORIC: Create a dinosaur footprint in mud in your yard. Have the children make a plaster mixture and pour it into the imprint to create a cast of the footprint for analysis back in the lab. Provide the children with small notebooks to use as their "discovery journals" to write down all the things they see and experience as they explore the theme. Hide plastic eggs (raptor eggs) in the yard and explain that the children must find them and bring them back to the lab for research.
Treasure Hunt activities are double edge swords. On one hand they can leave room for an abundance of creativity and fun for the planner. On the flip side, the more creative the planner gets, the quicker the process gets more complicated, causing an escalating feeling of being overwhelmed and a desire to quit. Creating one of kind, themed treasure hunts is my passion and I hope that the suggestions provided in this article will assist you as you plan a fun treasure hunt activity for your friends, family and co-workers.
WHY PLAN A TREASURE HUNT?
Treasure hunts are great because of their wide appeal. Their flexibility enables the maximum amount of participation no matter what group is involved. Young can participate as well as old. Those less cerebral can enjoy it as much as someone who works crossword puzzles in their sleep. They can utilize a wide range of skill sets from problem solving opportunities to physical agility to interpersonal dynamics. The shy and bold. The tall and short. The poor and wealthy. EVERYONE can enjoy the activity!
Treasure hunts are also great because of their versatility. They can be adapted to any location or locations and surroundings. They can be created to fit any duration of time needed from several minutes to several days! They can even work around any theme or special occasion you might be planning around.
WHAT KINDS OF FORMATS/OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE
Over the years, I've explored literally hundreds of varieties of formats. There are a few basic formats to begin with. Enjoy creating hybrids of the ones detailed below, or have fun creating your own!
· At a single location - This is
where the treasure hunt itself is at a fixed location and all activities,
clues, maps, etc. revolve around this single location (i.e. inside your
home, at a church, inside a baseball stadium, etc.) Participants travel
by foot typically (although there is a lot of room for creativity here
CREATIVE IDEAS AND NEW TWISTS
· Give your treasure hunt an overall
theme. It's more difficult to make sense of the activity without cohesiveness.
An overall theme (no matter what it is) does the job nicely. The theme
could either be already built in based on the gathering itself (Christmas
party, St. Patrick's Day festival) or purely imagined by you. The following
is a healthy list of themes to get your creative juices flowing: Pirates,
Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider, Spy/CIA/Mission Impossible, Wild West, any
of the Disney movies would work for children (and adults
American Revolution, Civil War, Roaring 20s/Mobsters, Arabian Nights.
Whether for party games, corporate teambuildings, classrooms, or just small focused discussions, a host/facilitator is presented with the task of putting people into groups. Depending on the participants involved and the activity in mind, this task can fall between overly simple and extremely daunting. The following illustrates some ideas from the simple to the fun and creative on breaking your larger groups into smaller ones.
Some more creative solutions to forming smaller groups:
Here are some other categories that you might choose if using options 2 or 3 above: states, cartoon characters, countries, languages, dogs, trees, vegetables, fruits, cookies, continents, modes of transportation, presidents, authors, artists/painters, cities, movies, letters of the alphabet, numbers, songs, phobias, occupations, holidays, months of the year, fast food chains, candy, actors, directions (North, South, East, West), titles (Queen, King, Duke, Prince, Lord, Countess, etc.), illnesses, forms of world currency (yen, dollars, pounds, francs, etc.) and universities.
Focused suggestions for corporate teambuildings:
1. Grouping individuals that normally work together can
bring with it two different dynamics. On one hand it can be quite functional,
enabling the team members to 'practice' working together in ways that
perhaps they might not normally. This can bring about a 'freshness' to
their working relationships - which might have drifted into staleness
over the preceding months or even years. However, depending on the activity,
it could also easily slip into an 'auto-pilot' group interaction where
each individual plays the same or similar role that they play day to day
(i.e. the leader will lead, the follower will follow, etc.) By mixing
up members from different departments, individuals might get to experience
an opportunity to play a different role than perhaps they see available
in their own current department dynamics. This can be a great way to recognize
leadership skills in individuals who might not be currently in a leadership
Throughout the 15+ years of designing themed treasure hunts/scavenger hunts professionally, some of the most successful and exciting events planned were for fundraising efforts. With low overhead costs and the ability to generate a lot of excitement for a fresh, new type of event, themed treasure hunts are proving to be more and more successful in raising money for private and public organizations, large and small.
There are a number of different creative and exciting ways to raise money by planning a themed treasure hunt. This article will attempt to 'whet your appetite' as to the numerous ways funds can be raised and excitement generated for your next fundraising event by creating a treasure hunt.
The treasure hunt itself can vary greatly in both size and budget. Some treasure hunts I've produced have been for crowds in the hundreds paying small entrant fees - all attempting to be the first to complete the treasure hunt for a prize donated by a local merchant. Others have been considerably more sophisticated, as in the case of a California Department of Mental Health function held a few years ago. Bids were sold to a more affluent crowd and a Quest for the Holy Grail adventure was held on the grounds of a very large and wealthy estate. (For more information on the Quest for the Holy Grail adventure, click here) The flexibility exists to ensure that every group fundraiser can be successful, no matter the size, age or affluence of the participants.
The following is a collection of ideas to show the various and numerous ways to raise money easily and creatively by planning a fantastic themed treasure hunt adventure:
· Begin by planning on selling tickets to participate in the event. Ticket prices can vary depending on the demographics of your participants. For example, if your are planning an event involving high school aged students, you'd probably fair better at selling hundreds of tickets at a cheaper price. However, if you were planning an event for a more mature and sophisticated crowd, you might want to sell tickets at a much higher price, making available only a set number of tickets for purchase to ensure higher odds at winning the grand prize for the participants (especially if a prize is given for the winning team.)
· Great prizes can be offered. Many groups have been very successful at arranging for prizes to be donated by local merchants. Sometimes a large prize was donated, such as a television set. At other times, a small basket of several smaller gifts has been offered from donating merchants ($15 gift certificates, etc.) Prizes can also come in the form of services provided by the organization planning the treasure hunt. For example, a prom committee raising funds for their dance could give out free Prom bids to the first five finishing teams. Another idea for a prize is to have the top placing teams being refunded their entry fee - or even getting a percentage of the total proceeds taken in by the event.
Here are a few tricks to get prizes donated for your treasure hunt:
· As a way to enhance your treasure hunt theme, find out if a local costume shop will donate one or some of the needed costumes
· Curtailing the above, if there are any other props or set pieces that would enhance your treasure hunt theme, find out if there are any vendors who would donate them in exchange for a form of advertising.
· Capitalize on your treasure hunt theme. Is your theme based on Pirates of the Caribbean? Why not have a small pirate port themed area at the beginning/end of the hunt and sell spaces to vendors where themed items and food can be sold? The same would work for a mini Renaissance Faire or an Egyptian marketplace. Depending on your treasure hunt theme, you could really plan a spectacular bazaar that could rival the hunt itself for excitement!
· Print up a mini story or background piece about the theme and storyline of your adventure treasure hunt and distribute them to the participants before they begin. It will generate a lot of enthusiasm when your participants get consumed with the story.
· Once the treasure hunt event is proven a success, it could easily be turned into an annual event, as it did with several of my clients. Teams from the year before's treasure hunt often reassembled in later hunts to try once more to win the prize. A continuing plaque or trophy could be displayed with the current and all past year's treasure hunt winners.
Perhaps the greatest part about planning a themed treasure hunt adventure for your next fundraiser, besides all the excitement it will generate, is the fact that it has a potentially very high chance of having very little overhead costs. Aside from some photocopies and footwork, few other expenses need to be expended - now that is music to a fundraiser's ears!
Plan something new and exciting that everyone will remember in future years! Plan a treasure of a fundraiser!
For a listing of our different treasure hunt packages CLICK HERE
It's been proven to me over and over again that one can hold a really great treasure hunt just about anywhere. Parks are great places to have them! Sometimes you can find some with small caves and tunnels made out of overgrowth (my personal favorite...). The following is a small list of useful and practical tips when hiding clues at parks (most I have learned the hard way!
1. Make sure that NO KIDS see you hide your clue or bury an object. I guarantee you, as soon as you leave, they will rush over and remove whatever it was that you left. It sounds terrible, but remember...they ARE kids and finding a mysterious clue or unearthing a treasure chest is like a slice of heaven to them!
2. Find out what times the parks open and close. Sometimes different parks close at dusk, other times much later in the evening. I've been escorted by policemen out of parks when I've tried to hide my clues the night before. Not fun.
3. Keep in mind where the sprinklers are. Many parks have their sprinklers timed to go off in the middle of the night. Even if you are successful at hiding your clues the night before, you could be left with soggy scraps in the morning.
4. Depending on your theme, look for parks with or near washes. Typically, at least in So. Cal. where I live, you'll find a heavy growth of vegetation. I've used locales like this for jungles and pirate scenes (the water is a great place to hide a bottle with a note - just make sure that you secure it with rocks so that the current of the wash doesn't move it.)
5. When exploring these heavy-growth areas (off the beaten track), be careful of vagrants' domiciles. You don't want to get too close to someone's home.
6. Many parks are themed. Get a hold of your local county map a puruse the parks in your area. I did that once and found a killer Western themed park. It had a street with shop fronts, a jail, a hotel, the works - and it was all made from old wood. Sometimes, the best parks are nestled in housing tracks where few readily know where to find them.
7. Be careful of festivals. Sometimes a festival can take over an entire park - without any warning - taking that killer place that you were planning on hiding the final object. Check the Dept. of Parks and Rec. in your area to make sure that a surprise like that won't happen.
8. Curtailing the above,
make sure that you find out who might have certain areas of the park reserved.
Sometimes a company picnic could be just as big a problem - if they were
in the wrong spot.
For a listing of our different treasure hunt packages CLICK HERE
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