The staff at Union City Community Schools have been getting their ducks in a row this spring. Literally.
Superintendent Ronna Steel has infiltrated the district with little rubber ducks and
“Goose Chase” scavenger hunt challenges as a means of boosting morale and creating new connections at a time when everyone is feeling the weight of the pandemic and the nearing end of the school year.
It started when Steel saw a post on social media from a principal in another state who compared educators to ducks paddling on a body of water – what appears to onlookers as really smooth on the surface, but under the water, they are paddling furiously.
“That analogy is perfect for what we are doing in this pandemic in education,” Steel said. “On the outside, everything is going smoothly because you have this amazing staff, from the custodian on up, who are all paddling so ferociously to keep things looking normal.”
To celebrate and reward district staff for their hard work, Steel purchased 115 rubber ducks – one for each employee – and labeled each duck with a number. Throughout the month of March, four ducks were drawn daily, and the corresponding staff members were invited to select a prize from the prize table, a collection of candy, games, fun items, and gift certificates to local businesses, either generously donated or purchased out of pocket by the admin team. Several school board members also donated back their stipend to help support the activity, Steel said.
Steel wanted to take it up a notch, though. In previous roles, she had used a game called Goose
Chase, a virtual scavenger hunt app that allows users to create their own challenges with photos and videos. After discussion with her team, they decided to add it to the duck fun and call the month-long event “Duck Duck Goose Chase.”
Steel found an anonymous volunteer within the district to serve as Mother Goose, created an email address for them to use to send challenges, and got to work. Each week, Mother Goose sent two challenges, giving staff two days to complete each one. Challenges included sending a photo with other staff members “flying” in the formation that geese do, dressing in head-to-toe green for St. Patrick’s Day, or Steel’s favorite “Breaking and Entering” where staff had to take a picture at someone else’s desk.
When MASA sat down with Steel via Zoom, she pointed to the window behind her in her office.
“One picture is people moving all of my stuff out this window,” she said. “They put it all back! I got a picture of someone surfboarding on my desk…they just had a lot of fun with each other taking pictures.”
The district even got the Union City community involved. Staff posted pictures on Facebook encouraging retired educators, community residents, and local businesses to donate to the prize table or just to cheer on staff who had their duck chosen in the daily drawings. Even students got excited to see who would be recognized each day. A drumroll of kindergarten hands joins the morning announcements at the elementary building each day, Steel said, and when a teacher’s own child hears their parent’s number called, they often join them to pick out a prize at the end of the school day.
It’s like a month-long Homecoming week, Steel said, and it’s mostly the staff doing it. She estimated the administrative team invested about $600 total to the project, which feels like a small amount compared to the morale boost and team building she has seen as a result of it. It’s been a conversation starter, a way for staff to meet new people across the district, and of course, fun.
“When you can laugh with someone and have fun with someone, later on when you need something it is much easier to go to that person and ask,” Steel said. “We are a very small-knit community, but maybe you don’t feel comfortable coming into my office no matter how many times I say I have an open-door policy.”
“You coming in and taking stuff out of my window opens that door to talk.”
Union City’s Admin Team shared a few resources so you can create your own Duck Duck Goose Chase: