Caldwell Elementary School – Back to School Scavenger Hunt

Guest Post from PIRATE Leader Kate Ashmore

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Back to School Like a PIRATE, we wanted to highlight an amazing experience designed to welcome staff back to school in Auburndael, FL. Last week while perusing the #LeadLAP hashtag on Twitter. A few Tweets caught my eye and made me curious about what was going on in the #CaldwellHunt hashtag on August 3rd.  I popped on over and saw a flood of Tweets from Kate Ashmore (@KateAshmore) and her team enthusiastically sharing their journey as they participated in a back to school staff scavenger hunt. It looked simply amazing! In true PIRATE fashion, Kate designed an experience for her staff to welcome them back to school and even got the community involved!  She has graciously agreed to share with all of us the details of the day. Thank you so much, Kate!

Caldwell Scavenger Hunt – Kate Ashmore

The beginning of a new school year is a pivotal time! It sets the tone for staff, which in turn sets the tone for students. While reading Lead Like a Pirate, I came across the idea of a staff scavenger hunt. We had never done anything at that level before! Within seconds, my brain started creating various versions and scenarios of endless possibilities for our staff. What would it look like, where would we go…what would we do…what kind of impact would it have on our staff and in turn our students?

The following explains the goal, plan, execution and results of our scavenger hunt!

Goal for the Hunt:

  • Strengthen the spirit of each House
    • We use the “House System” from the Ron Clark Academy at our school – in essence our staff is divided into 5 houses/teams – for the hunt the houses were in competition against each other.
  • Give Back – Caldwell Elementary School is located in Auburndale, Florida and we have an exceptionally supportive community! We wanted to use the hunt as a way to say thank you and to give back.

Planning the Hunt:

  • Staff members were charged with either picture or performance tasks – each task had to be shared via Twitter and Periscope using #CaldwellHunt.
    • Sample Scavenger Hunt form 
    • Example of picture task – find the official seal of the city and take a selfie with it – 10 points.
    • Example of a performance task – go to the community center, shoot some basketballs and make 5 baskets – 15 points.
    • There were two tasks that were directly related to giving back to our community.
      • Saying Thank You – each house was assigned a specific business partner to visit and deliver a thank you banner.
      • Random Act of Kindness – each house was challenged with the task of performing kindness towards a business partner who has given to the school.
    • There were a total of twenty tasks for staff members to complete – four of those tasks were individualized for each house.
      • QR Codes were created to keep the individualized tasks a surprise.
        • I used QR codes because we are exploring teachers utilizing them during instruction and I wanted them to have a first hand experience for the simplicity and engagement QR codes provide.

Executing the Hunt:

  • Each House was given an envelope with copies of the hunt and any materials needed to perform tasks.
  • Houses were given 5 minutes to plan their course.
  • They were given an hour to complete as many tasks as possible.
    • The goal was to be strategic and see how “your house” could earn the most points.
  • Bonus points were given for arriving back to school before the official end time – points were deducted for being late.


The Sans Peur house was tasked with performing a random act of kindness for the fire department. They grabbed bags of candy and collected cash from the house members so the fire fighters could have lunch on “their house”. The fire fighters were so shocked to see our teachers and grateful to be gifted with lunch.

The Forte house was intentionally assigned to visit a business partner at Edward Jones Investments. They were assigned this task because one of our teacher’s husband is also an investment broker with Edward Jones. I thought it would be a meaningful connection.

When they arrived they introduced themselves to the secretary and asked how she was. She openly shared that she wasn’t doing well because her family recently experienced a loss of a loved one. They sat with her for a few minutes and poured love and kindness into her. At the end of their conversation together they realized the secretary’s husband works for our school district, serves our school and works closely with the leader of the Forte House! Out of 20 tasks…out of all of the business in our community…the scavenger hunt lead them to give back to a county employee’s wife in a time of need.

Once everyone arrived back on campus, we pulled up a few of the periscope videos and had a great time laughing and celebrating! At the end of the event, the points earned from the hunt didn’t even matter to the competing houses! Not one person asked which house won. We knew each house won something more meaningful than merely points! Our staff got to act silly and have fun with their colleagues and friends while spreading kindness to our community. Excitement and joy permeated the school! Our staff shared that it was the best first day back they ever had! A scavenger hunt across the city of Auburndale for sixty minutes has lead our school into the best opening we’ve ever had! I can’t wait to see how it will impact the next 180 days for our students.

Check out this  Twitter Moment which captures tasks and performances of each house.

Supercharge Summer Staff Retreats

Part 1 of our Building Culture and Commitment Over the Summer Series

Over the past few weeks, we have received several emails, Tweets and direct messages from PIRATE leaders interested in hosting summer retreats. YAY!  

Summer months are definitely time to relax, recharge and refresh after a year of hard work and learning, but don’t let these months slip away without taking full advantage of several ways to continue to build rapport with your staff.  We believe there are three types of summer experiences for your team that are well worth the time they take to put together: retreats, summer learning, and socials. Today’s blog post is all about the retreats!! But before you pop open your laptop to start the planning, you’ll want to think about the goals you have in mind for the time you will have with your team to make sure a retreat is the right type of event for you!

Summer Retreat Goals: 

  • Culture building
  • Relationship building
  • Rapport building
  • Team building
  • Goal-driven and FUN

Staff retreats are a perfect way to build trust, connect with your team and have some fun. When implemented well, they are a great way to spend some time together with your crew.  When planning a retreat, think about fun ways for your team to collaborate, rely on each other, and tap into their collective problem-solving skills. Retreats are a perfect time for a little healthy competition mixed in with the fun.  Scavenger hunts, BreakoutEdu activities, group selfie contests etc. are all great ideas as part of a retreat.

Retreats aren’t the time to learn new curriculum or hear about the latest mandates, but they can be a great time to have some more relaxed opportunities to build and/or refine your collective vision.  Activities that reveal passions and best hopes for the school going forward are perfectly appropriate for a retreat.

In a powerful blog post, principal Jimmy Casas shares his thoughts about retreats:

Summer Retreats: “This may surprise you a bit, but when district or building leaders do not come prepared with specific agendas and a specific focus to what the retreat will entail, we risk our folks not investing in the process and therefore leaving the experience disappointed. If this experience is repeated the following year, the retreat becomes nothing more than a check mark that reflects an item taken off the summer list. And by the way, if you are going to call it a retreat, then leave the campus; include some activities that promote teamwork, bonding, and genuine investment in each other. Holding all-day meetings does not constitute a retreat.”

If you are planning a summer retreat, we would LOVE for you to share some of your ideas and resources with all of us here: Lead Like a PIRATE: Summer Retreat Ideas   and of course, share them with us in the #LeadLAP hashtag.  One of the best parts of being a PIRATE is our willingness to share and then pillage from each other! We look forward to learning with you!

Shelley and Beth