I discovered this tool via Marilyn Western’s “Stuff Ya Gotta Try” on her Technology Tips for Classroom Teachers site, and I wanted to share it with the oft-neglected Social Studies 4-8 specialists.

TerraClues offers pre-made public mapping scavenger hunts, using Google and GoogleMaps to offer clues about national landmarks, state capitals, or anything else you can think of. They are organized by elementary, middle, and high school, although some hunts span K-12. For example, I found a Revolutionary War hunt as well as one on presidential birthplaces. Class accounts can be configured, and students can create their own hunts, demonstrating their knowledge of history as well as their language skills in writing good clues.

I chose one of the most popular hunts, North American Landmarks, which lets you play without an account. It’s at the top of the middle school options, as shown below:

Screen capture of TerraClues hunts for grades 6-8

I was asked about a famous bridge in San Francisco, and I could type in the answer directly, check Google Maps, or run a Google search to find the answer. When I got the second clue (what’s a famous tower in Seattle?), I got a congratulatory note and the option to switch to Google Maps’s satellite view, to see the Space Needle up close.

Screen capture from TerraClues for correct identification of the Space Needle

If I’m looking in the wrong part of the world, the hunt gently nudges me to check elsewhere, too:

Screen capture from TerraClues to try another location

Sometimes there’s an additional clue to help narrow the hunting. For critical thinking, extensive exposure to mapping, and a general good time, I think TerraClues might be a nice choice for the social studies classroom, if only to spare children from endless colored pencil work with photocopied continents!


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