Robby Zimmerman visits Atomic Games in Downtown Muncie as part of the PLAN 100 community scavenger hunt.

Assistant Professor John West was surprised that most of the 90 students in his Introduction to Planning course had never visited downtown Muncie. He wanted to change that.

What he came up with is a series of scavenger hunts in which students are charged with finding and photographing themselves in five downtown hot spots, at Craddock Wetland, and on campus. Students spent three weeks visiting the places then wrote a paper detailing what they learned that they could not have found via the Internet, a map, or through a first-person account.

“As a new resident to Muncie myself, I enjoy learning about the community and wanted students to have that same opportunity,” said West. “It’s crucial for planners to view the world around them with curiosity, so I wanted to spark that instinct.”

For the downtown leg of the journey, everyone had to find Sustainable Communities Institute inside the historic Rose Court building as one photo. Students could choose from among the Muncie Children’s Museum, Muncie Civic Theatre, and the Horizon Convention Center for the second. Other photos were to come from comic stores, a bicycle shop, hair salon, and downtown restaurants.Scavenger hunt, downtown Rose Court

Students reacted positively.

“Going out and experiencing something like the Muncie Children’s Museum downtown was a key factor in changing my opinion about this place,” Joshua March wrote afterward.

For Natalie Hofp, a chai latte at The Caffeinery made downtown memorable. Alex Storz gained a new appreciation for the promotional activity that goes on almost daily at the Scramble light. Unai Miguel Andres, a graduate student who assists West, said the trip to Craddock Wetland was a highlight.

“I learned not to judge a place based on what I heard or viewed online,” wrote Alexandria Biederstedt. “Once you go to the area you create a whole new appreciation and gain respect for it.”