Have you ever been on a scavenger hunt? If not, get ready. You’re not going to believe what kind of crazy fun you’ve been missing!

A scavenger hunt is a game in which the players — either individuals or teams — compete to see who can obtain the most items from a list. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not necessarily…

Usually, the group who organizes the scavenger hunt comes up with a list of very specific — and often quite unusual — items. What kinds of items? It could be anything.

Some examples might include a movie ticket stub, a bar of soap from a hotel, a pair of pink socks, a Christmas card, a coin from a specific year, an avocado or a coupon for a particular type of dog food.

To make things even harder, there are often rules that must be followed, such as you cannot purchase the items. Instead you may have to convince people to loan them to you for a bit. Or you might be required to take pictures of items or obtain bits of information instead of actual physical things.

The winner of a scavenger hunt is usually either the first person or team to obtain all items on the list or the person or team who obtains the most items from the list within a set period of time. The prizes for winning a scavenger hunt can be as wacky as the items on the list.

Who started such craziness? Many believe gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell created scavenger hunts as a fun party event in the 1930s. Since that time, they’ve become a crazy tradition that many people enjoy.

Scavenger hunts can take place just about anywhere, from outdoor parks and neighborhoods to indoor malls. They can also be a great way to teach kids about nature by having them search outdoors for a variety of natural items.

If you’re wondering where the name came from, the crazed search for strange objects seems to resemble scavenging. Scavengers — such as vultures, raccoons, crows and termites — search out dead animal or plant material to feed on.

Although scavenger hunts won’t have you searching for dead animals, they will have you feverishly hunting for some weird things from time to time.

In the past 10 years, some people have taken the idea of scavenger hunts to a whole new level. With the invention of the outdoor sport of geocaching, people can now play a high-tech version of hide and seek all over the world.

Geocachers use global positioning system (GPS) receivers (either handheld units or mobile phones with GPS capability) to hide and seek containers — called “geocaches” — anywhere in the world. Although geocaches can come in many forms, most tend to be waterproof containers, like plastic storage containers or old ammunition boxes, which contain a logbook and various trinkets.

When a geocacher finds a hidden geocache, he or she records his or her name (usually a special code name) in the logbook. He or she may also take a trinket and leave something behind in its place.

Today, there are more than 1 million geocaches hidden around the world with more than 5 million geocachers searching for them!


26 Join the Discussion

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  1. It’s like on Easter time when you try to find eggs.

    You find stuff.

    You make a list and then you find the stuff you wrote on the list.

    A scavenger hunt is when you look for stuff and you have a list of things you have to find and you might want to bring a water bottle.

    • Bringing a water bottle is a GREAT idea, 2nd Graders! Some scavenger hunts can last a pretty long time and you need to stay hydrated as you search! Thank you for sharing what you know about scavenger hunts with us today! :-)

  2. We loved today’s wonder of the day. It sparked memories of times we went on “treasure hunts” with our families. Some of us have even been geocaching. We are going to try to find a cache when we go outside today.

    Thanks again for another wonderful wonder. :)

    • Geocaching sounds like SO MUCH fun, Kerrick Elementary! We learned about it from a Wonder Friend during one of our Camp What-a-Wonder Twitter chats this summer. Did you find the cache you were searching for today? What was inside? :-)

  3. We think geocaching is really cool! It is amazing that there are 1 million geocaches and 5 million people looking for them. Our classmate Michael does geocaching with his family. He has found 16! We are going to tell our families all about this. Thank you!

    • We think we might try geocaching in Wonderopolis, The Beach (Mrs. Guerin’s 2nd Grade Class)! We also think that it is AWESOME that Michael has found 16 caches with his family! What were some of the items inside his finds? Thank you for leaving us another super cool comment! :-)

  4. Hello, I’m back. I used to go on scavenger hunts with my big brother…I hope I can play it again soon with him. I love your website. Sorry I haven’t been on in so long. I haven’t been near a computer. Right now, I’m at school, yep 4th grade. Mrs. Johnson’s 4A group. But right now, I’m not in after school.

    • We’re glad to hear from you, Nova! Visit Wonderopolis whenever you feel like learning some new things or whenever you get the chance to…we’ll be here! Thank you for sharing your scavenger hunt memory with us today! Your big brother sounds like a WONDERful person! :-)

    • We think geocaching sounds like something we would LOVE to do, how about you, Riley?

      Inside each geocache container is a “log” where people who find the geocache can write down who they are and when they found the geocache. Sometimes there is also a small prize that the “finder” can take with them…BUT! The “finder” has to replace the prize with another prize that they bring with them. It’s kind of a fair trade of prizes. It leaves a cool new surprise for the next person who finds the geocache! :-)

  5. Hi! I am Maria! I am new to wonderopolis. My teacher told my whole class about wonderopolis and she said it would be a good thing to read for our reading log. I am in 5th grade and I am in Ms. Pearson’s class. So far i am LOVING your website! No negative comments nothing negative! I just love you website!!!!!!!

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Maria! We are so glad your teacher told you about Wonderopolis and that you visited and left us a comment! Be sure to check back every day for a new Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • You CAN create your own Wonder of the Day®, Riley! In fact we would LOVE it if you did!

      Did you know you can share ideas you have for future Wonders, or create your own Wonder and send it to us by clicking on the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis? It’s really easy! You can also make a video for your Wonder and provide us with the link to it on the internet, too! Thank you for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend! We can’t wait to hear about your Wonder! :-)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about art because you wear old clothes when you paint so your clothes don’t get messy.

    • Even though Wonder #360 is about PIGS and MUD (also very messy, don’t you think?), that was a VERY SMART guess you had about art, Sarah! You DO wear old clothes when you paint! We try to give hints so that our Wonder Friends will think about what the next day’s Wonder of the Day® might be. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are not, but our Wonder Friends are ALWAYS smart and ALWAYS use their brains for WONDERing! :-)

  7. We did get to hunt for our cache, however we did not find one… It was just a little too far off our school property. We are interested in registering a cache on our school property… We will keep you posted :)

    • Sounds like FUN! Maybe you guys could hide a geocache and invite other classes to find it! Then other classes could do the same! Some caches could be hidden inside the school, and some outside on school property. We can’t wait to hear all about your geocaching adventures! :-)

  8. My family and I have gone geocaching in Ohio and New York. We are now on #17. Some of the items that we have found include one geocoin and two travelbugs. We also found a Yankees ring, which is my favorite baseball team. We also found an eraser, a mini violin, jacks, bouncy balls, stickers, and much more. One of our geocoins has traveled 1590 miles and is now in Alabama. You can follow it here: http://www.geocaching.com/track/details.aspx?guid=2ea7d166-e5c7-4b2c-b774-cb13c1f37ffe

    • We were hoping you’d write us back and tell us about all the cool items your family has found geocaching, Michael! Thank you so much for sharing this adventure with everyone in Wonderopolis! It is so neat that you can track your geocoin! :-)

  9. I geocache with my dad, and both of us have codenames! Mine is PrincessCacher. One day, we went to Richmond Lagoons and found 11 caches! While we were there, we did a geocache where you had to cross a river using far apart rocks!! Me, my mom, and my dad all got soaked! Only my dad got across though! :)

    • Thanks so much for sharing your AWESOME story about how your family geocaches, Emily (or should we say, PrincessCacher?)! We’re proud of you for finding 11 caches…that’s a LOT! We’re also proud of you for trying your best to get across the river using the rocks! Even though you didn’t make it across, we know you gave it your best shot, and for that, we think YOU rock! :-)

    • What a great resource for cool scavenger hunts, Stephanie A! Thank you for sharing this link with our Wonder community! We hope you and your brownies have a WONDERful time on your hike! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a scavenger hunt?
  • Which animals are common scavengers?
  • What is geocaching?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to go on a scavenger hunt? There’s no time like the present.

First, get a bunch of your friends together and divide into teams. Then decide on how much time you want to allow for the hunt. You can also set up any other rules you might want to follow.

If you want to make the game more interesting, create a rule that bans purchasing items. Requiring players to borrow items or take pictures of them makes things more fun and interesting.

Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, you will need to figure out what kind of scavenger hunt you want to have. Here are sample lists of items you can use for a variety of different types of scavenger hunts:

You could even do a Wonderopolis scavenger hunt. Dive into various Wonders of the Day to create a list of facts to be gathered. Then have players search and identify the Wonders of the Day where those tidbits of information are mentioned.

When you’re finished with your scavenger hunt, email us to let us know how it went. Who won? What was the most difficult item to find?

What’s the funniest story from your scavenger hunt? Did you learn something you never knew from a past Wonder of the Day?


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ City Scavenger Hunt lesson, children go on a virtual scavenger hunt through Europe to the cities of London, Paris, Innsbruck, Venice, Budapest and Istanbul.


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