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Scavenger Hunt: A Group Collection

Donnell Tinkelenberg


The activity that I have chosen to share is entitled "Scavenger Hunt: A Group Collection". I designed this activity for my Honors Biology final exam last spring. The activity was designed to assess students' knowledge of classification, biology of organisms, evolution, ecological relationships, microscope use, and use of research tools, all part of the spring curriculum.

Background Information for the Teacher

Students were divided into teams of three to four students. Groups assigned half of the group to be "collectors" and the other students to be "curators". The collector's role was to search the campus for various organisms and evolutionary and ecological relationships between organism. Collectors were given a scavenger list of items. Items were worth either one or two credits, depending on their complexity. Some examples of items worth 1 credit were: primary consumer, bryophyte, algae, larval animal, spores, or plant seed. Examples of items worth two credits were mutualisms, simple food chains, genetic differences within the population, two closely-related species, or communities. The collectors were given a kit of materials and a list of guidelines to follow.

The curators' role was to obtain the items from the collectors and to display them in a folder. Items needed to be identified, either drawn or attached to paper, and then labeled and described. Curators were given access to a variety of reference books. Microscopic organisms were drawn with the aid of a microscope.

Students were given the assignment on the Monday of finals week. They were allowed to research ahead of time, but not collect. I was amazed at how creative the students were in their approach to this task. Some students brought a Polaroid camera as part of their collection kit. Others prepared computer-generated pages for their folders. In my nine years of teaching I have never seen students on task for the entire two hours of a final exam. These students were working on their projects well past the two hour time.

Assessment and Evaluation Students were assessed based on several criteria. Points were awarded for collaborative effort and following the rules. Credit points were awarded for the variety of items collected and the quality of the presentation. There were very few projects of less than "A" quality, and all students seem to enjoy and learn from their experience.

I credit the success of this project to several factors. First, this was a "hands-on" activity very different from the standard multiple-choice final fare usually offered. Second, students could collaborate and share ideas, talents, and efforts while working towards a common goal. Lastly, students like to be engaged in the learning process; to be directly involved in accumulating knowledge.

Since submitting this activity with my Access Excellence application I have used this activity with heterogeneously grouped biology students. They were also engaged in this activity for the full two hour period, with excellent results. Students who had done literally nothing all year came alive with this activity.

Some Hints for Teachers

Be sure to allow students time to select groups and group roles. Provide enough field guides for the curators. I have bird, mammal, tree, plant, insect, and other invertebrate guides for the region. I put all of the collector's equipment in lunch bags, but find that they get kind of trashed by the end of the day. Perhaps plastic containers would work better. Remind collectors to check back in with the curators about every 15-20 minutes. One group last year waited until the last 15 minutes to return and had a hard time finishing.

Adjust your specimen list according to your campus environment. I discovered that there were very few ferns on our campus, so will delete it from my future list. You may (and I hope that you do) have a more biologically rich and diverse environment. Ours is pretty sterile, but still keeps them busy.

Student Guidelines

Remind students that a specimen can only be used to represent one item from the list. Some things could be used for more than one category. Limit the use of humans to one category.

Student Work Sheets



You and your partners will be completing a collection of living organisms and systems from the school campus. Before the final exam day you should select roles, study the rules and the list of acceptable specimen, and decide on any format arrangements you might want to complete ahead of time. No collecting will be done ahead of time.

Rules for the Collector:

  1. Do not leave campus.
  2. Items may be collected from any site on campus.
  3. Please collect quietly. Remember that other classes are learning.
  4. Never touch plants or animals with exposed fingers. Always use gloves and/or forceps.
  5. Remember, we don't want to deplete the environment. Use illustrations of items, if possible, when you are collecting.
  6. Always identify specimen (bag, vial, or index card) with the following:
    Collected by:
    Date Collected:

Display Directions for the Curator:

  1. Plants should be taped to index cards, identified, and labeled.
  2. Fungi, animals, and protists should be illustrated on index cards, identified and labeled.
  3. Use colored pencils to establish color of specimen.
  4. Make use of all resource books to help you in your task.

Collectors: be sure to check back in with your curators about every 15-20 minutes. They will need the time to complete their job.



  • index cards
  • colored pencils
  • pencils
  • plastic baggies
  • plastic spoons
  • plastic vials
  • forceps
  • plastic gloves
  • labels
  • droppers
  • scissors
  • hand lens

  • colored pencils
  • folder
  • colored markers
  • index cards
  • tape
  • droppers
  • microscopes
  • glass slides
  • cover slips
  • labels
  • paper
  • field guides

  • Specimen List


  • an arthropod
  • an insect
  • an arachnid
  • a reptile
  • an amphibian
  • a mollusk
  • a dicot plant
  • a monocot plant
  • a plant-like protist
  • an animal-like protist
  • a fungus
  • a mammal
  • an organism's home
  • the reproductive structure of a plant
  • a gymnosperm
  • an angiosperm
  • a bryophyte
  • a fern
  • seed dispersal by animals
  • seed dispersal by wind or water
  • an animal larva or pupa

  • a food chain
  • a food web
  • two different life stages of the same organism
  • an example of hazardous waste disposal
  • an environmental disaster
  • genetic variation within a population
  • sporophyte and gametophyte (generations of the same plant)
  • example of a plant adaptation
  • example of an animal adaptation
  • an example of asexual reproduction
  • territorial behavior in animals
  • mating behavior in animals
  • a mutualism
  • a commensalism
  • a parasite and host
  • a population
  • a community

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