Introduction: School Map Circuitry Scavenger Hunt

About: I am a high school engineering teacher (formerly an engine design engineer) and mother of two little makers who loves developing new projects - both personally and for my children and students to work through.

This scavenger hunt has students map out their school as if the hallways are the wires of a circuit. I use this circuit mapping activity for high school students in an introductory engineering course, but it could be adapted for any course that covers circuitry (see the reference information at the end of this tutorial for some different variations in rigor, etc.).

With a little planning, you can create an engaging scavenger hunt that sends students searching for resistances through the hallways of your school and then competing to calculate your school "circuit's" total resistance.


~10 sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" paper

Step 1: Teach Resistance Theory

Students will need to know how to add resistances in series and in parallel in order to complete this activity, so make sure you have covered that information and students have a solid understanding of those concepts before sending them out on the scavenger hunt.

For a refresher, WikiHow breaks it down nicely HERE and gives students a reference for all the knowledge they would need to complete this project.

Step 2: Make a Rough Map of Your School's Hallways

Each school is a different size and shape and will ultimately lead to an original scavenger hunt. The images shown in this tutorial reflect my school, but should be reconsidered for your building's unique layout.

Begin by mapping out your school and deciding what portions would work well for this project.

Generally speaking, you will be imagining that the hallways are the wires in a circuit and you will later add "resistors" throughout the hallways for the students to find. Things to consider when mapping out a plan for your scavenger hunt:

  • Are there areas students should NOT be roaming in for a scavenger hunt?
  • Are there areas that meet up (through connecting hallways or stairs) that would lead nicely to a parallel circuit?
  • Are all the students in your class familiar with the areas you would be sending them on for this activity?

After considering your layout, make a rough sketch of the areas/hallways you plan to use so you will be able to create a "key" for reference as students work through this project.

An example layout of the portion of my building I used is shown above. I opted to only use the academic wing of our school so students wouldn't be scattered all over the building in areas I couldn't be monitoring somewhat concurrently.

Step 3: Create a Circuit Map of Your School

Now that you have decided what hallways of your school to use, show the students the map you have created and have them draw a rough circuit diagram (reminding them that the hallways act as the wires running through your school circuit). You will want to create a map in advance so you can offer tips and ensure your students have a proper circuit map before beginning the hunt.

Though circuit diagrams are usually made very conceptually (see conceptual image above), it may be easier for students to make this map as if drawing the building. Giving students some artistic freedom to help them visualize their circuit (as opposed to forcing a purely conceptual map) generally has had better results than when I try to impose one approach or another for this map.

Note: You will need to create a theoretical battery location (for instance, the front entrance) and may need to note other small details to turn your school into a complete, closed circuit (for instance, I had students connect the circuit from the rear door back to the front door to complete the circuit).

Step 4: Set Up the Hunt

Print off resistance signs (8 1/2" x 11" standard paper is fine) of different resistance values you want to put into your hallway "circuit."

Then, place them throughout the building. This can easily be done temporarily with tape or pushpins, but you may want to let your administration know you will be hanging up signs temporarily to avoid any confusion.

Make sure to note the locations of your resistance signs (either through the school or circuit map you have previously created) prior to sending your students on the hunt.

I have included a template for these signs (as well as a base for your school map, etc.) in the attached documents.

A note about time: This activity works best in schedules where the class period is approximately an hour or more. If you plan to use this in a shorter period, you may want to do the mapping steps one day and then have the scavenger hunt and calculations occur on the following day.

Step 5: Send Your Students Hunting!

Group your students in teams of 2-3 and send them hunting with the following instructions:

  1. Search through the hallways of the circuit map you created for "resistances". There will be (insert number here)* signs for you to find. (*Make sure to give students the total number of signs to look for so they will know when they have found all the resistance you have hung.)
  2. Write the resistance values in on your circuit map where you find them (see example image above)
  3. Once you find them all, return to the class to work together to calculate the total resistance of our school circuit.

Note: This is also a great time to remind students to be calm and quiet when searching to avoid disrupting other classes during their hunt.

Step 6: Calculate the Resistance of Your School Circuit

Depending on the layout of your school circuit map, students will need to perform series and/or parallel resistance calculations to determine the total resistance of your circuit (an example of this calculation for my school scavenger hunt is shown above).

I like to make this entire activity a contest with a winner for the first group to give a correct response to give students a little extra motivation. Prizes of candy or bonus points never hurt either...

Step 7: Project Variations and Reference Information

The example circuit created in this tutorial offers a scavenger hunt with a very straightforward and basic approach to resistance calculations. Depending on the knowledge base of your students, you can tweak this scavenger hunt to include series-parallel circuits, current and voltage calculations, etc. to amp up the rigor.

All About Circuits has a great virtual worksheet to help prepare students for calculating more complex circuits HERE if you choose to increase the difficulty of the project.

However you set up your map/hunt, I hope you and your students both enjoy (and learn from) this activity. Happy Hunting!

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