By Dave Ongie
When Science Hill teachers Jessica Schiwitz and Wendy Whitmore pitched their idea to stage a school-wide scavenger hunt on Digital Learning Day, they did so with a simple catchphrase.
“Embrace the Chaos.”
Indeed, Thursday was not a normal day on the sprawling Science Hill campus. The hallways were teeming with teens and teachers using a variety of tech tools to tackle a wide array of tasks. Students watched a video to learn the perfect pushup form, recorded themselves speaking in Spanish, used Snapchat to brush up on famous authors, and scoured the building for a piece of art and a room number that could only be found by solving an Algebraic equation.
“It’s going to be a little bit different from a normal day on the Hill, but that’s the point to get people out of there comfort zones, to show them some of the digital tools we have available,” Schiwitz said. “It’s gone very smoothly with students buying in, teachers buying in, knowing the plan and having a map of where they’re supposed to go.”
Students all across the Johnson City School System celebrated Digital Learning Day in similar fashion. For example, students at South Side used technology to complete a series of tasks aimed at helping Luke Skywalker fend off Darth Vader.
The genesis of Thursday’s scavenger hunt at Science Hill came from a tech conference Schiwitz attended.
“I saw someone show they had done a digital scavenger hunt with their class,” Schiwitz said. “I said, ‘That’s so cool, tuck that idea away.’ Then when we started thinking of ideas for this digital learning day, I thought what better way to get kids up and moving around the building, get teachers involved?”
Getting the faculty to embrace the idea took a bit of work on the part of Schiwitz and Whitmore.
“Jessica was very good communicating information multiple times,” Whitmore said. “Sometimes things like this get lost in a large school. So Jessica was really the mouthpiece and the vision caster for everything.”
The turning point came at a faculty meeting earlier this month when Schiwitz and Whitmore had an opportunity to demonstrate the scavenger hunt for their colleagues. When the hypothetical idea of a school-wide, nomadic tech lesson was put into practice, Schwitz said her fellow teachers embraced the idea.
“Once everyone tried it out, they were like, ‘Okay, we see the vision,’ ” Schiwitz said. “People were coming up to us that afternoon, like, ‘I have an idea for a question,’ or, ‘Here’s something we can use as one of the stations.’ ”
Whitmore credited Kiki Diamond, an English teacher and a digital technology leader at the school, for using Snapchat to engage students on the subject of famous authors. It was just one of many great ideas that made Thursday a day to remember for Science Hill’s students.
“It’s much more hands-on,” said Science Hill senior Annie Stewart, who helped shepherd students through the many stations spread out around campus. “It’s about kinesthetic learning. It’s really helpful to be able to walk around the school. This is brand-new. It’s been good, seeing everybody come by here and help each other with the questions.”