GISHWHES, or The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, is a scavenger hunt run by Random Acts and headed by “Supernatural” star Misha Collins. Each year around the first week of August, groups of 13 all around the world log in online to check the scavenger hunt list to find out what crazy, weird, and kind things they’ll be tasked with accomplishing throughout the week. Whoever turns in the most well-done stuff wins a trip with Misha to an interesting location around the world. It’s difficult, it’s exhausting, and it’s amazing.
Each year, Misha Collins does his best to come up with the weirdest, the most helpful, and most spectacular items on the GISHList. We’ve made portraits out of skittles, held business conferences underwater, gotten Christmas trees to float up into the atmosphere, and made kale clothing. We’ve also left coupons around stores as coupon fairies, gotten people to raise enough money to put refugee families into homes and schools, went out to entertain children in hospitals, and even built a fully-functioning school in Nicaragua aimed at helping women who otherwise would never get an education. We do fun wacky things and fun kind things, and everyone who does it has the best time of their lives.
The best thing about GISHWHES is that it makes kindness fun and easy. It shows you that you can do good things and enjoy doing them. Some schools require students to do a certain amount of community service hours, but that isn’t always seen as a fun thing. Sometimes it feels like a chore or work. Once you’ve experienced it as a game, you want to continue to do it all the time. Sometimes I go back to certain list items and think about doing them on random days just because they’re fun and it’s nice to see kind things being done.
I would like to see something like GISHWHES implemented in all schools. It’s never too early to get kids used to being kind. In fact, Beer & Probst’s (2017) studies show that students who better understand compassion and kindness do better with literacy because they can sympathize and understand characters better. They learn that being weird can be great. Not only that, students will learn how to autonomously divide up work, work as a team, problem solve and plan, innovate, and discover that they’re capable of doing amazing things if they actually try.
I imagine that schools could either make GISHWHES into a seasonal after-school program like sports are, or could do a week or so where half of the day or a period is spent doing GISHWHES stuff maybe right before the holidays, at the end of the school year, or at the start of the school year. A few modifications would have to be made–you might not ask students to pay the small fee to participate (in GISHWHES this fee goes into the winner’s trip and RandomActs charity work) and supplies would have to be provided. I hope someday this can happen in all schools.
Beers, K. & Probst, R. (2017). The Compassionate Reader. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (pp. 44-51). New York, NY: Scholastic.