An activity I’ve done nearly every semester in university has been the “Directions” activity. It’s called “directions” from when the activity was a treasure map activity where students walked around following directions to reach certain locations. This was accomplished while turning, crossing the street, or taking pictures at certain locations along the way.

Now students go out to take pictures. They need to find examples of different superlatives as represented by the neighborhood near the university. Instead of following tightly scripted directions with one correct solution, students take pictures of places that meet requirements like “The dirtiest place” or “The best place to hang out”.

One of the unexpected benefits of sending out students to walk around the neighborhood near the university to take pictures is that their homework turns into a record of the student zeitgeist at the time. Some places are cool, some places are good for dates, and some places have the worst food. I am the least hip person in the office, but now I know that ordering kimbap at one place is acceptable, but you should never eat their other food (thus explaining the empty restaurant whenever I go in. Everyone else knows!) Without an iron stomach to try out all the restaurants in the neighborhood, I’d never know what was good or bad without my student’s help.

When dozens of groups agree about the best or worst location for a particular thing, it has a lot of weight. That means that walking around with other teachers to find a meal is easier. We have dozens of students recommending places, or telling us where to avoid. Seeing places rise or fall in popularity, or seeing what strikes a cord in a specific group of students was interesting too. I have no idea why the place that used to be good for dates has fallen out of favor, but there are new places this semester. The restaurants to avoid were mostly made of places I’ve never seen or tried, which means I must be doing something right.

I also learned there is a coffee shop targeted towards students that has booths where you can sleep and study. Place your laptop on a desk, relax with pillows and blankets, and have a place to study. It’s like a public dorm room where you can get coffee. Genius! How would I know without a student telling me about it. It’s very helpful.