As a fan of the CBS Survivor show, I welcomed the chance to bring the fun of the show into my classroom. The May 2004 issue of NSTA's Science Scope included an article by Kathy Cotsello that outlined the Survivor Science unit she does with her classes. The article inspired me to develop my own Survivor Science unit as an end-of-the-year activity for my 8th grade students to review important information we had covered during the year as well as to keep the students involved during the last couple weeks of the school year.
After introducing the unit, I had each of my classes divide into 5 or 6 tribes of 3-4 students and assigned each one a specific color. Each team came up with a team name and completed a totem pole (printed on colored paper) that I used to keep track of points earned during the immunity and reward challenges. A PowerPoint is available that I use to introduce the unit and make sure the rules are clear!
I try to schedule 4 to 5 immunity challenges into the unit (see the list below). The tribe with the most points (in each class) earns immunity and receives shell necklaces to wear until the next immunity challenge. The team that earns immunity cannot be voted for at the next tribal council.
The day after an immunity challenge I reveal the points earned by each team and record the scores on the totem poles. During the tribal council, each team casts one vote for another team in the class to lose the points they earned on that immunity challenge. Teams are not voted off - just the points from the last challenge. I use a small fish bowl for the votes.
I usually include a reward challenge (see the list below) after each Tribal Council to give the kids a chance to earn a special reward ranging from cans of soda to nifty "spectrum" goggles (or any other cool toys that I happen to have on hand.)
Each day I display a different Survivor Mail message on my bulletin board. Each message relates to the next challenge and gives the kids an idea of what they might need to know to earn points! A blank Survivor Mail Word document is also available if you'd like to create your own messages for challenges you have created.
Survivor Prize Package
On the last day, the tribe with the most points in each of my classes was entered into a drawing for a Survivor Prize package. The prize package varies from year to year, but usually includes the rest of the candy I have left in my candy bin, soda, and any other cool prizes I happen to gather over the year.
I purchased several tropical themed decorations and the shell necklaces (for the immunity idols) from Oriental Trading to transform my classroom into Survivor Island - complete with a large totem pole, metallic palm trees, raffia skirts, and other island decor. I used fishing nets to decorate one of my bulletin boards and printed a variety of signs to highlight the unit. I also hung a net from the ceiling over my doorway and decorated it with clip art of ocean critters.
Unit Printables ...
Survivor Unit Outline - A day-to-day listing of activities to help you schedule your unit.
Survivor Science Introduction - An information page I share with the students at the start of the unit.
Tribe Totem Poles - I print these on paper (5 to 6 different colors) and display on a bulletin board in my room.
Tribal Council Voting Slips - Print several pages and use for teams during Tribal Council. I use a fish bowl to collect the voting slips.
Survivor Science Graphic - Use to create your own room signs and other Survivor Science handouts.
Super Surfers - Students use Internet sites to complete this challenge that includes questions from various branches of science. I allow teams to use only two computers during the challenge, which means that they need to work together to make sure they complete the challenge. This file is also available as a Word document so you can edit it and tailor it to your curriculum.
Metric Mania - Students have a chance to test their knowledge of the metric system as they complete this challenge. I usually give students 10 to 15 minutes to review the day before the challenge and work through some conversion problems with them. You will need to set up several measurement stations before the challenge.
ChemTime - Hopefully your students were paying attention during their chemistry lessons for this challenge! Students use periodic tables to help them answer questions about the elements and also need to know common names for compounds, how to identify ionic and covalent bonds, and balance chemical equations. I allow students to fill up a note card the day before that they can use on the challenge. I also review the main topics that will be addressed in the challenge. This file is also available as a Word document so you can edit it and tailor it to your curriculum.
GeoTroopers - For this challenge students use GPS receivers to find waypoints in our schoolyard to complete a challenge. There are a total of 7 challenges - each with four questions that must be answered at each waypoint. The four questions relate to tree identification, plant identification, insect classification, and ecology factoids. Students are provided with a tree identification book, an insect book, and a periodic table. They may also use their textbooks if they want to carry them around. You will need to print copies of the challenge cards as well as the ecology questions and insect pictures. The questions and pictures need to be placed in film canisters and hidden at the correct locations.
NOTE: If you don't have access to GPS receivers, you can place numbered flags (or other markers) around the schoolyard to match the waypoints listed on the challenge cards. See my GeoTroopers map for an example. Since this challenge will need to be tailored to your schoolyard, it is also available as a Microsoft Word document.
Trivia Time - This SpongeBob themed-challenge is one of the favorites and usually the last challenge we complete! Students use the clues and their science knowledge to complete the challenge. Points are awarded based on the location of the question in the chart.
Inspector Gadget - Students have time to try to memorize 30 items on a tray and earn points for each one they remember. Teacher notes are included in the download.
Teacher Trivia - I challenge students to remember a variety of facts about me that I have shared throughout the year. This challenge is also available as a Microsoft Word document so you can personalize it.
Word Whomp - Test their word making skills with this make-a-word challenge using the letters in "Survivor Science."
Super Scientists - This challenge tests their knowledge of the various scientific careers we have discussed throughout the year. More Super Scientist lessons (worksheet, bingo game, and review cards) can be found on my General Science Lesson Plans page.