Turtles on the Town: An O&M Scavenger Hunt

In my O&M lessons, as my students can attest, I usually try to cram in as many different skills as I can in order to maximize our time together. This scavenger hunt activity is a fun way to integrate route travel, cardinal directions, verbal directions, and a little bit of technology to keep things interesting.

In our little mountain town of Pickens, SC, as in many smaller cities, there are sculptures of a particular animal to be found all over town. In some towns these sculptures are quite large, but in Pickens our animal is a turtle, and the metal sculptures, which are bolted to the surface that is underneath them, are the size of a real box turtle. Most of the turtles are single sculptures, but this picture shows a cluster of them which are mounted in a fountain:

Picture of a group of small metal turtles mounted on a fountain

Our little guys are called “Turtles on the Town,” and at the public library and other locations you can pick up a map that tells you where the turtles are located:

Map of "Turtles on the Town" with locations of turtle sculptures

It makes a fun lesson just to use the map and locate the turtles, perhaps incorporating a monocular and scanning skills in the activity, but I decided to up the game a little bit by creating a QR code scavenger hunt based on the location of the turtles. This activity adds the opportunity to introduce the students to the concept of beacon technology, which will become increasingly prevalent in public spaces in the future. Note that this specific activity would be very difficult for students who have little to no vision, because the turtles are so small that finding them with a cane would be extremely challenging. However, the activity could be modified with larger targets. QR readers are so sensitive that you don't have to worry about lining up a phone exactly with the code; if you are halfway close to the code, the QR reader will usually "grab" the code and read it.

When I first thought of this activity, I was trying to find the time to create the QR codes myself, but then I realized it would be better to involve some of my students in the process. So, I asked two of my high school students to help me map out a route between several of the turtles on the map and create QR codes that would contain directions from one turtle to another based on O&M concepts such as cardinal directions, turns based on degrees, etc. The QR codes would be printed out, and I would tape them to the turtles. The student who would be participating in the activity would scan each code on a smartphone, which would read the text of the clue, and then the student would follow that clue to the next turtle on the route.

We used a QR generator extension for the Chrome browser, called "Quick QR Code Generator." There are numerous code generators available for all kinds of devices and platforms, but I like this extension because it doesn't require me to open a separate app or website--I just click on the extension on my toolbar, and it generates the code and creates a text box. Below is a picture of what the code and text underneath it looks like when I am creating it on my computer:

Screenshot of a QR code with text under the code

For this activity, I wanted the printed code to be fairly small so it would fit on the turtles, so I first right-clicked on each code and copied it to the clipboard. Of course, when the code is copied, the text that shows in the above picture is not visible. I then pasted it into a Word document. I put several codes on one page, then printed them and cut them out. For each one, I added a text box that reads, "Please do not remove! In use for a school-based acivity." Even though I would be placing the QR codes as close as possible to the time of the activity, I hoped that the extra message would discourage people from taking the codes off the turtles if they saw them. Fortunately, this did not prove to be a problem.

When the code is scanned with a QR code reader app that I have on my iPhone, the text comes up in a box that looks like this:

Text of a set of directions that serves as a scavenger hunt clue.

The text of this particular clue says, "Face south and cross East Main Street. Look for the next clue there." The print is pretty small on the screen; it can be enlarged with the built-in zoom feature on the phone, but my students find it easier to use VoiceOver to read the text auditorally.

The final picture of this post shows one of the turtles, who has a sign with the name "Pokey" mounted above it, with a code taped to its back:

Small metal turtle with a QR code taped to its back.

It may seem like this activity required a lot of preparation, but because we did most of the planning and creation of the QR codes in vision class, I did not have to find extra planning time in my schedule to work on it. It really has been fun for all involved, and I plan to continue creating scavenger hunts with QR codes, both indoors and outdoors. One idea I want to try is to base the clues on the latitude and longitude of various locations where the codes will be placed.

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