Students find joy in hosting and participating in scavenger hunts for crocheted dinosaurs
By LYNN CHEN — email@example.com
It is no easy feat running a large club like the Davis Triceratops Club.
Currently, the club’s Discord community boasts 5,158 members and each of its events have been wildly popular among students.
The club crochets tiny, colorful dinosaurs and hides them in locations around the UC Davis campus and its vicinity. Students in the club’s Discord community then go on scavenger hunts for these dinosaurs based off of hints given by “droppers” — those responsible for creating and concealing the stuffed animal prizes. Once a dinosaur is discovered, the finder is deemed the “parent” of their new stuffed toy.
Elizabeth Lau, a second-year civil engineering major, recounted her experience participating in one of the club’s hunts as “chaotic” and “extremely popular.”
She described how she saw a “massive flood” of people walking and riding on bikes to search for the stuffed animals which was “a little overwhelming.”
Melody Adams, a fourth-year psychology major and member of the dinosaur production team for the Davis Triceratops Club also furthered how excited the hunting community can get about drops.
“There are some hunts where I’ve seen like 20 to 30 people all searching around,” Adams said. “If I drop [another] hint, people will start screaming, ‘There’s a new hint, there’s a new hint!’”
“I’m just sitting there, like, ‘this is crazy,’” Adams said.
For those who are unable to procure a crocheted triceratops in a scavenger hunt, the club also hosts raffles and flash sales for its soft animals.
Ada Lei, co-founder and president of the Davis Triceratops Club, attributed the events’ successes to the demand for the stuffed prizes themselves.
“[The crocheted] dinosaurs are generally free stuff for people, and college students love free stuff,” Lei said. “Especially if it’s cute and soft and cuddly.”
In addition, Lei stated that the popularity of the hunts reflected the sense of appreciation the Discord community had for the club itself.
“I think a lot of our community, they see the amount of effort that we put into behind the scenes to crochet each piece […] and to being generous enough to put them out for free for students to just have fun,” Lei said.
On a regular basis, the club hosts “Daily Dino Drops,” which are hunting events that occur randomly and relatively frequently throughout each week. Additionally, each month the color of the prize triceratops changes, making each dinosaur a more distinctive and charming object to scavenge for.
Members in the Discord community can also look forward to limited-time events that feature exclusive dinosaurs.
For example, occasionally a wild “Aggieceratops” might be dropped in an area. These dinosaurs are specially crocheted with blue and gold horns instead of the usual white ones to show off the UC Davis college colors. However, “Aggieceratops” are especially difficult to find due to their vague location hints and the considerable competition to find them.
Additionally, whenever the Discord community reaches a member count milestone, special dinosaurs are released as well. The most recent ones were white-bodied with blue and gold horns.
Another special event that happened the previous month promoted “Franken-Dinos” — crocheted triceratops made from the scrap yarn of other drops. The idea for this event originated from Adams and was especially on theme for Halloween.
Whether it’s for regular drops or special event drops, contributing members of the club take much care in making the scavenger hunting experience fun for everyone.
“I try to go for places that people might not think of right away,” Adams said. “Sometimes, you might look at something and it looks […] like a really great spot, but I know the hunters will see that too.”
“So I [tend to] go a little bit off the beaten path — maybe around the corner of a building or instead of hiding [the dinos] at eye-level in a bush, I’ll hide it a little below eye-level or a little above it because sometimes people forget to look up,” Adams said.
Adams is a prolific “dropper” for the club and finds joy in contributing to the school community.
“When I first joined, I was just a member, and I really appreciated what they were doing,” Adams said. “People were getting involved and making friends, and going to new places on campus that they’d never seen before.”
However, despite passionate club members and a dedicated online community, the organization is facing some challenges with running operations smoothly.
“I’d say the largest setback we’ve had is an offset in leadership,” Lei said. “I say I’m the co-founder of Davis Triceratops because the other co-founder up and left all of a sudden.”
Additionally, many previous members have graduated UC Davis, which exacerbated management and organizational difficulties for the club.
Because of this upset in leadership, the club closed down its Discord server for a period of time over winter break in 2022. It reopened again a few weeks into January of 2023 after some reorganization of the online server and the club itself.
“It takes a lot of time and effort and it takes a big team to run such a large club,” Lei said. “There are a lot of things to take into account.”
For instance, since the goal of the club is to keep things fun and refreshing for the online community –– hence the monthly color changes in triceratops and frequent hosting of exclusive events –– the board members feel the need to keep producing new, original ideas.
“The new ideas also need review,” Lei said. “We need second opinions and you really need a whole team to decide.”
Lei also admitted to suffering from burnout from running the club.
“A lot of that is in part because of how we started out [the club],” Lei said. “We [scaled up] just by doing more […] but that wasn’t the healthiest thing.”
For Lei, one of the most important lessons she’s learned from building the club from scratch is clearly defining how things are organized within a group.
“When we just started out […] the number one goal was to see how many dinos we can put out; [making dinos] was more about how much fun everyone was having,” Lei said. “But in having that being the […] main goal, we sacrificed a lot of our personal time and efforts. After a while, it became overbearing.”
To battle the burnout she has been suffering with the club, Lei has been trying to delegate tasks and depend on the team more.
Moreover, Lei has started to incorporate more aspects of what she enjoys or is passionate about into the club.
“I want to take a step towards philanthropy, especially with the amount of funding that we make as the Davis Triceratops Club,” Lei said.
She said that she was considering offering a percentage of all the funds raised to a certain philanthropic organization that changes every month.
“We don’t have a particular sort of field that we’re gearing donations towards, but rather we want to contribute to community-voted [charities],” Lei said. “I’d like to see that we’re making a step to contributing funds towards whatever [the community] is passionate about. It comes back to that sense of appreciation.”
Written by: Lynn Chen — firstname.lastname@example.org