I-Spy Something More than Meets the Eye

by Amanda Gonzalez

When I see the Casa de la Guerra, I spy something more than meets the eye. What do you see?

Interpretive activities offer creative approaches to engage children in historical subjects. At the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park we offer free craft activities that teach about life at the Presidio under the Spanish crown (from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s). We wanted to offer an activity that is equally engaging at the historic Casa de la Guerra house museum. We are proud to announce a fun, new interpretive game for children called I-Spy, free with admission to the museum. The game is played by using a riddle and a close-up image of an object in the museum in order to learn the object’s significance and about Spanish and Mexican history in Santa Barbara.

Youths from the HACSB give SBTHP feedback on I-Spy.
Photo by Marcus V.O. Lopez, Resident Programs Coordinator for HACSB.

In order to ensure this interpretive activity is ready for its debut, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) helped us coordinate a test run of the activity with our target audience, children ages five to thirteen. On a recent Friday afternoon, a dozen children excitedly filled the museum and began searching for the objects we asked them to find using a clever, rhyming riddle as a clue. Upon completion of the activity, we directed the youths to turn the pages of their booklets to find the answers to the riddles. In addition to answers, the booklet includes informative material about the significance of the selected objects and their historical context.

Aleena Ortiz uses information in the museum to solve an I-Spy riddle. Photo by Marcus V.O. Lopez

This test run was a great success for SBTHP. We were able to observe children actively engaging in the history of the building, developing a sense of comfort in a museum atmosphere, and eagerly honing their detective skills.  We also believe it was a success for the participants, based on some comments received at the end of the activity, including:  “This was really fun. Can we do it again?” and “I don’t want to go home yet.”

An excited Areli Astorga solved an I-Spy riddle in her activity booklet! Photo by Marcus V.O. Lopez.

With the development of the I-Spy activity booklet, SBTHP can now give children a museum-going experience designed specifically for them.

I-Spy debuts at the Casa de la Guerra Saturday, April 28.

Amanda Gonzalez is SBTHP’s office manager.  She and Weekend Supervisor Noah Tucker developed the I-Spy activity for Casa de la Guerra. 

2 thoughts on “I-Spy Something More than Meets the Eye”

  1. wow, pretty cool. I remember in the third grade making a kachina doll carved out of balsa wood. It is unique experiences like this that you remember forever. here I am sixty years later and I still remember this hands on moment. I later expanded that moment into visiting Hopi pueblos in Arizona. I bet I-Spy has a similar impact on kids as Kachina carving had on me. Great work Amanda and Noah

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