Updated: May 9
What's going on everyone?
At the beginning of each year the principal at my school reminds all of the teachers that she wants to get the students out of the building as often as possible. This means planning a lot of field trips across all subject areas over the course of the year. My team of teachers and I end up planning trips to history museums, art museums, college campuses, parks, plays, and even different cities. Without fail, there is often a group of students who lose interest in the content of the trip fairly quickly. My natural reaction, of course, was to start playing Pokémon Go with them on these trips. You can find the lesson plan for Pokémon Go here.
Most destinations for field trips are usually active areas in Pokémon Go. The game is directly influenced by the player's real life surroundings. The interface in Pokémon Go looks similar to Google Maps. As players move within their real world surroundings, their avatars move within the game's map. Pokémon will show up on screen that the player can choose to catch. That is the core gameplay of the game. Pokéstops are also another feature that are scattered throughout the map. When the player visits these stops, they are given items that will help aid in catching Pokémon. Each stop is usually the location of some kind of landmark, that can be found in real life. Most museums, parks, and other places with high volumes of visitors have a large number of Pokéstops scattered about the premises. When you visit a museum, a Pokéstop may be of the building itself, or of any of the artifacts and items within the museum. This map on the right is of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. We end up on a field trip here once every year. Playing Pokémon Go with some of my students made the trip more fun, and surprisingly, more educational.
This is not a lesson plan for any specific activity, or content. It is instead a set of guidelines and materials for how to use Pokémon Go on your next field trip. Any further questioning, or details, for the lesson will need to be added by the teacher/facilitator of the trip.
Take a look at the image on the left. These Pokéstops are the crux of this "lesson." PokéStops are one of the most central and recognizable game elements. They can only be accessed while on the game's map and the player must be within a certain range to access them. Students can use Pokéstops as they make their way around wherever it is that they are visiting.
They are all real-world landmarks in places such as historical markers, museums, monuments, art installations, churches, etc. They each have a unique name and picture of whichever landmark they are attached to. Visiting places like the American Museum of Natural History will provide players with Pokéstops for a large number of artifacts found in the building. Here you can see one of the famous Olmec Heads featured in the museum. When students access a Pokéstop like this one, they can record the names of their Pokéstops on the handout. The game, however, does not provide information on the landmarks to the player. The students will need to physically find the landmarks in person in order to provide an explanation for them. Alternatively, they can also use the Internet, but try to have them do it in person. I have yet to actually provide the handout I made for this lesson to my students, but just walking around various museums with them while playing actually got many of them talking and learning about the artifacts and landmarks we were visiting. This past year I took my students on a trip to Washington D.C. and a group of us were playing for the entirety of the trip.
You can also make it a competition to see who can catch the most Pokémon over the duration of the trip. Just make sure no one gets too distracted. The great thing about Pokémon Go is that it is free to play. There are micro-transactions so be careful of those and warn students not to buy anything in game, but the core game is completely free. A lot of your students will probably be tempted to use their phones anyway and this will get them to focus more on the content of the trip.
I have only done this activity with a smaller group of about 10 students at a time. It may be more difficult to manage and monitor with a full class, but I can vouch it works very well in small groups. Also be careful of having students run out of battery on their phones. I always carry a portable charger with me just in case. Pokémon Go is a fun way to gamify your field trips. Pokémon is the highest grossing media franchise of all time for a reason. People love it, and it may help some of your students engage with your field trips.
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Thanks for reading,