Even now, scavenger hunters are investigating the hole next to the coin track and taking funny pictures with the iPad. Tom, an eight-year-old tyke with a mop of brown curls on his head, is reading the next instruction out loud: “Now look for the black arrows on the floor and follow them until you get to the Chill Corner. There, you can…” But before Tom can finish the sentence, both of his fellow searchers call out excitedly: “Over there, that’s the corner! Come on!” In a flash, the three of them dash off, past Moses Mendelssohn, towards the “Chill Corner”, where they throw themselves on the comfortable pillows and eagerly read the next quiz question on the tablet.
This and similar scenes can be observed every day now during the holidays at our exhibition. Tom and his friends, you see, belong to a group participating in a new summer vacation program, App through the Museum. I had the good fortune, together with my colleagues from the Education Department, to be allowed to develop the program and – to our delight – see it practically fully booked the moment it became available.
The drafting phase for the program started early in the year, shortly after my traineeship at the Jewish Museum Berlin had begun. The guidelines read: develop a summer vacation program for after-school groups of children ages 7 to 10, integrating new media into the process. We quickly settled on a main theme: the Jewish calendar. Since the summer holiday comes right before Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, it lent itself to being incorporated thematically.
The program soon took on more form until at last it comprised three big parts: First the children get a playful account of how the Jewish and “our” calendars are constructed, what heavenly bodies they are based on, and what we call the respective months. Following an introduction, the iPads come into play: in the second part of App through the Museum the children walk in small groups through the permanent exhibition, fulfilling tasks and solving riddles on the tablet. In the run-up to the program, with the help of an app called Actionbound, I assembled the questions and stations I had developed into a media-supported puzzle hunt. Working on the “bounds”, as digital scavenger hunts are also called, demands a great deal of concentration and by the end I felt a bit the way I did when I handed in my thesis. Nonetheless the Actionbound app interface is designed in a very sophisticated way and can be operated intuitively. So it became incredibly fun to fill my “virtual itineraries” with texts, photos, and videos.
After a lunch break in the museum garden (if the weather obliges), the children embark on the third and last part of the summer holiday program in the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy. Each child receives a wonderful, multi-colored calendar template. It includes both the Gregorian and Jewish months in a circular format that illustrates the relationship between the two over the course of the year. The children can embellish the calendar poster with a variety of materials at their discretion (glitter stickers, zodiac sign stamps, bright feathers, markers, and neon tape among much else) and take it home. At long last, an awards presentation takes place to distribute kosher gummy bears as prizes for the scavenger hunt teams – the crowning conclusion of a holiday workshop that has now lasted several hours.
What I liked the most during the conception phase of the program was how multi-faceted the work was. It spanned research, developing methods of didactic communication, and generating the puzzle hunt itineraries, all the way to coordinating and preparing the guides who have been leading the program since the holidays began. In the course of the preparations I also had occasion to get to know a number of museum departments better and gain valuable experience in other areas, not to mention the great collaboration with my colleagues in education.
“That was so fun. I’m gonna come see you again soon!” said Tom at the end of the program. I said goodbye to the little guy with a broad smile on my face and am already looking forward to the next group to dash with an App through the Museum.
David Studniberg, education
David Studniberg (2016), Modern Scavenger Hunters. A Report from our Summer Vacation Program.