Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game in which participants use GPS-enabled devices to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates, and then search for the geocache (container) hidden at that location. This geocache was hidden in the center of a hollow tree!
“I use billion dollar technology to find Tupperware containers in the woods.” I love that saying and it is so true! I get to play with some of the most sophisticated technology on the planet and find my way in the woods, or park or even the city. I am using a GPS, showing students how to use them, and having fun!
Most of my students have not spent more than an hour outside in the past week. That includes the time walking from their house, to the bus, from the bus to school and back. Geocaching gives me the opportunity to get students outdoors, using 21st century learning skills combining nature and technology.
On campus, I set up geocaching courses where students use GPS units to find clue sheets hidden in containers around campus. They learn how to use the technology and how it relates to latitude, longitude, elevation and topography. The PE department has followed this idea by setting up courses on campus property. Instead of walking in an oval 5 times for a mile, students can use GPS devices to locate the 5 clip boards, answer a few questions, learn and get their exercise.
I offer students an opportunity to earn extra credit with geocaching. They can find a minimum of 10 geocaches, place a geocache and prepare a report for grade recovery. Parents, students and I meet before they embark on the activity. Students check out a GPS unit (or use the APP on their phone) and sign a contract (deadlines and expectations).
One Saturday, I offered to meet parents and students at a local park with 10 active geocaches. I taught how to navigate to the caches, proper logging, swapping swag and replacing for the next player. Four families showed and told me this was the first ‘family event’ they have done in months. Along the trail, we stopped and examined animal tracks, types of rocks, lichens, listened to bird songs, calculated water flow rates in a creek and estimated wind speed without technology.
What I have found is students are having fun. When they have fun, they learn and do more. They are contagious to other students and their families. Students that get involved have increased their grades and interest in class (in most cases, all their classes). Additionally one student has stopped his chronic absences. He knows if he is not in class, he cannot check out the GPS on the weekend.
Last month, one student asked if he could make a career doing geocaching! At first, I giggled to myself. How…… then I thought…. “SOMEONE HAS TO DESIGN THOSE SATELLITES!!!” and told him yes. We spent nearly ½ hour after school during learning lab brain storming how he could make money with this hobby.
To learn more about how geocaching can be used in the classroom, visit the educational forum on www.Geocaching.com. You can ask questions, post lessons and download lesson plans from other educators for free.