Learning out Loud in Milwaukee, WI

Wherein a Northfield Game Inspired A Lesson Plan

People who came of age in the State of Minnesota sometime in the last decade likely have heard of Tricadecathlonomania, particularly those of us who know someone Northfield. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it,  Trica, as it’s commonly known, is a scavenger hunt of epic proportion. It is not the scavenger hunt where you find a big list of things and bring them back to whomever gave you the list, nay it is far greater than that. With a whopping 288 items on the 2010 list, Trica is perhaps the most ambitious type of scavenger hunt there is; and here’s the catch: the list, whatever of it you can manage, must be completed in 24 hours. Thus was born “Tricadecathlonomania: The Lesson Plan.”

The weather here in Hungary, simply put, has been gorgeous lately. The Magyars must have settled in this ancient ocean in April or May because I can’t imagine a better time to mosey on through the Magyarföld. Consequently, I was pestered nearly every lesson, every day, to go out to the park, have class outside, or play some kind of game. At first I was unsure if it was allowed, or if I should just stay on the Munkácsy property, or if it was allright to go to the nearby Berzsenyi Park. It turns out it is perfectly okay, so the only thing I needed to dream up was what to do once we got there. Then, it dawned on me. Students. Giant park. Nice weather. The conditions were perfect for a scavenger hunt. I contemplated different ways of doing it and ultimately settled on Trica style.

For the purposes of keeping things easy, I decided only to pit the students against their class mates, though in retrospect, a pan-bilingual program Trica game would have been more exciting. Each lesson then broke into 3-5 teams, each team got a list and once they ha a list there were off. They had until our next lesson to earn as many points as possible. The only rules:

  1. Items must be documented with either a photo or video.
  2. Points were only valid if they were earned inside a specific playing area (this was to keep the students from wandering too far during the lesson).
  3. No breaking laws or school rules.
  4. All language in the videos and photos must be in English. Any Hungarian—spectators commenting, little kids running into the video, signs in the background—will void the item.
  5. Breaking rules no. 2-4 may result in a disqualification (and a mark 1).

The students were amazingly engaged with the idea from the start. Chuckles arose while they were reading over the list, many of the items were borrowed from the 2010 Trica list, and were quite vague, strange, or seemingly impossible. Two such items perplexed almost all the groups:

  1. Ask about the current euro to forint exchange rate at a bank, and then whip out a gyro to trade in. [40] (Bonus if said gyro is produced from a briefcase you’re handcuffed to [25])

30. A partridge in a pear tree, 2 turtle doves, 3 French hens, 4 calling birds, 5 golden rings, 6 geese a laying, 7 swans a swimming, 8 maids a milking, 9 ladies dancing, 10 lords a leaping, 11 pipers piping, 12 drummers drumming. [30 per verse/item]

None of the teams attempted no. 6, there was only one bank within the playing area, so it may have been too hard. It also didn’t help that in Hungarian “gyro” is spelled “gyros” and pronounced “ghee-rhoss” and Euro is pronounced nothing like that in Hungarian. No. 30 confused almost all the groups, apparently the 12 Days of Christmas carol isn’t as popular here—though one group earned a whopping 360 points for doing all 12 by bringing in a video tape of a 12 Days cartoon—either that or all the groups were giving it way too much though.

In all it was among the most fun I’ve ever had teaching, certainly the most fun I’ve had since September.