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February 23, 2011

The Amazing Race: Local Government Edition

In this post, Brenda Haines shares how a City Hall scavenger hunt helped introduce high school students to local government …

The tasks are everyday tasks. But, as clues, they were tantalyzing and challenging.

  • You want to get a license for your dog.
  • You want to file a complaint because your neighbor never shovels the sidewalk.
  • You need to get a flu shot.
  • You need to pay a parking ticket.
  • You want to buy a permit for the yard waste recycling center.
  • And, more…

For nearly 45 minutes, teams of high school juniors grabbed these clues, scaled four flights of stairs and navigated through City Hall to discover myriad services the City of Oshkosh provides.

Brenda Haines | Public RelationsThe students, a class of two dozen juniors from Oshkosh’s four high schools, are part of the Youth Leadership Oshkosh program. Youth Leadership Oshkosh, a program the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, is designed to help students see their community differently. They participate in monthly immersions on Health & Human Services, Arts & Culture, Education, Economic Development, and more. The idea: Give them the chance to deep dive into an aspect of the community like Local Government.

This year, Local Government Day participants:

  • met a judge
  • observed criminal traffic court intake sessions
  • took part in a mock city council meeting that considered a teen curfew
  • got a clearer picture of city services through their participation in the Amazing Race – Local Government Edition

Afterward, we asked students about the one thing they learned during the day-long session that was most surprising and/or interesting. The Amazing Race was mentioned multiple times.

“All the things you can do at City Hall,” wrote one student.

When asked what we could do to improve the day, students asked for more clues to make the Amazing Race take up more time. And, they suggested that rather than simply having a City Hall staff member sign the clue, that we have them actually learn something more about the service that is provided.

This was our first year including this activity in our Local Government Day. But, it won’t be our last. We plan to incorporate more clues and learning opportunities next year.

If you’re part of a planning team that wants to introduce students to City Hall and you’d like a sample of the clues we developed, let me know. I’d be happy to share them with you. (I’d post them here, but I don’t want to give next year’s class an unfair advantage!)
-Brenda

Disclosures: I am a Youth Leadership Oshkosh Volunteer and Steering Committee Member.