Are you looking for a way to encourage students to pursue topics of interest? To go beyond the information in a textbook? To take advantage of online resources and the electronic devices that are becoming more common in classrooms? To give students and parents an opportunity to investigate and collaborate together?
I’m reading about and exploring Smithsonian Quests, a recently announced project that provides a series of online activities designed around interdisciplinary themes. As students progress through the activities (the “quests”), they earn “badges.” The work they submit for a quest is reviewed by an expert who also provides feedback.
The project taps into the resources of the Smithsonian, including artifacts, recordings, and photographs. The quests are all online, so students can participate anytime, anywhere. Teachers must register first in order to set up classes. (Registration and the site are free).
The badges include oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, astrophotographer, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, arts advocate, enviro-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator, and tree hugger. Quests (activities) include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc. Most then require students to upload their writing, photographs, or other documents. There is a place for students to write and edit before submitting their work, so no special software or apps are necessary.
This appears to be a safe environment for online collaboration and investigation. This could be a culminating project for a unit or semester or a way to tap into student interests with a real-life audience. BTW–Teachers can also earn badges as evidence of participation in Smithsonian online conferences, online professional development sessions, and the completion of class projects.