The yearlong Microscopic Anatomy course at Drexel University College of Medicine includes four group activities known as scavenger hunts. A scavenger hunt is a lab exercise in which each five-person lab group is assigned five structures that they must locate on glass slides from the student slide collection. They may consult textbooks, atlases, lecture notes, lab manuals, histology websites, or any other resources except their instructors. They must come to consensus within their group and then have their lab instructor confirm each identification. Each group member receives one point toward the final grade for every correct identification. Scavenger hunts are thus the equivalent of collaborative, open-book lab quizzes.
To encourage creative thinking, items on a “hunt list” are often presented in the form of second order questions. For example, we might ask students to find “hyaline cartilage that has no perichondrium” instead of asking for articular cartilage. Some questions have more than one correct answer. If asked to find “simple squamous epithelium in the kidney”, students would receive credit for identifying the parietal layer of Bowman’s capsule, endothelium, or the thin limb of Henle’s loop. Lab instructors are encouraged to ask follow-up questions that are not graded, but do help students assess the extent of their knowledge. In the previous example, instructors might ask the students to name other examples of simple squamous epithelium in the kidney.
The logistics of a scavenger hunt are relatively simple. Each hunt covers the material from three or four labs. Our labs are taught in multiple cubicles, each containing seven lab tables. Thus, by generating only seven different hunt lists, we are able to give a different list of structures to every group within a given cubicle.
Scavenger hunts have been enthusiastically received by students and faculty. They are an exceptional evaluative tool because they require a level of discussion and consultation that fosters active learning and team building during the testing process. They consistently receive high ratings in course evaluations, and are unique among our testing modalities in that they are widely enjoyed by students and faculty alike.