The Revolution Won’t Start Here…And That’s Okay

May 14, 2013

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

  • checklistDeliver a full cup of tea in a wagon that rolls smoothly on four wheels of four different shapes.
  • Design and craft a musical instrument that is played only by altering its temperature.
  • Freeze and pop an airborne bubble.

These are three of the 318 items on this year’s University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List. Scav, as it’s called, is a school-wide game in which students get points for completing listed tasks. All of this occurs over four days, ending Mother’s Day. Participants are expected to attend class and complete all of their required assignments during Scav. The winning team gets nothing more than bragging rights.

My son’s participation in Scav got me thinking about all of the things my children have done just for fun. None of these activities will be on their resumes or college applications, and no money changed hands. They may have looked like a waste of time (I may have even said so myself), but they reflect the curiosity and creative thinking that characterize so many gifted children. So, in honor of Scav, I am creating a scavenger hunt of my own composed entirely of some of my children’s more unusual activities. I am doing this with the hopes that there might be other parents out there whose children are more interested in having silly fun than in changing the world. If your daughter constructed a science lab in her room to develop a new form of algae biofuel or wrote an algorithm to predict epileptic seizures, please stop reading. You will only make me feel bad. If you wonder if your child’s creative abilities are being put to their best use, read on…


  1. Play 900 hours of Sid Meier’s Civilization 5. When you find a religion or historical figure you don’t know, look it up online and then lecture your parents.
  2. Juggle balls, rings and pins (not at the same time) in the living room. Lose all your points if you hit the dog.
  3. Instead of taking the AP Calculus review course, learn multiple moves on the trapeze and perform them in front of your friends.
  4. Convince some acquaintances that you are from Portugal and that you and your absent twin brother were adopted.
  5. Create and draw fifteen new Pokémon characters including character sheets with drawings, special abilities and evolutionary development.
  6. Imagine a human-like supernatural character with a personal story line. Draw the character using Photoshop. Have this character interact with other characters online until your mother asks you, “What are you doing?”
  7. Act as the Dungeon Master in a four-person D&D game over four days. Make your own game board.
  8. Instigate a school-wide game of duck-duck-goose, with at least thirty participants, three teachers and the head of school.
  9. Research the genus of the mountain goat, which you love, to prove that it is superior to the billy goat, which you hate.
  10. Create a friendship bracelet pattern by copying at a design you like. Make the bracelet for all of your friends.
  11. Invent a tag game with your friends inspired by a presidential campaign. The game must contain the Republican and Democratic candidates, their running mates, polar bears and an oil refinery prison.
  12. Make junk food themed Halloween costumes out of cardboard boxes and poster paint and coordinate the designs with your best friend. Wear the costumes to school. Repeat the process annually.
  13.  Become an authority on Justin Beiber’s biography and discography. Quiz your parents, friends and teachers.
  14. Memorize Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go. Recite it in front of the entire school.

For years I’ve been hearing that gifted children are our best hope for a better world. With a list like this, I’m not sure that the revolution will start at our house. If my children do end up changing the world, it will be in a way I had neither directed nor envisioned. But I have more immediate concerns. I need them to finish their homework and clean their rooms before they add another item to the list.

What “scavenger hunt activities” have your kids done for fun? Please share in the comment section below!

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