Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Geocaching: A High Tech Treasure Hunt with Educational Benefits!

Muck boots? Check.
Jacket? Check.
GPS Receiver? Check.

It is spring, I think, so that means it is time to do some GEOCACHING! During the fourth quarter I get the opportunity to go geocaching with various groups of students. If you haven't heard of geocaching before, check out the basics on geocaching.com.

Depending on the grade level, discussions beforehand include but are not limited to:
  • What are latitude and longitude and how do they help with directionality?
  • What is GPS technology?
  • What is a GPS receiver?
  • What is geocaching?
  • Why would anyone want to geocache?
  • What types of "treasures" can be found?
  • How can one place a geocache?
  • Where might geocaches be found?
  • What is geocaching etiquette and lingo?
  • How do we use geocaching.com?
  • Can we go outside now?
One of the beautiful things about geocaching is that it can be tied to just about anything in the curriculum. Because of this, the caches contain different things. With my 8th graders the purpose is simply to learn how to navigate with the GPS receiver. Because of that I place different stamps in each cache and send them out with GPS receivers and index cards. To prove that they found a cache, they stamp their card.  Because we don't have any official geocaches on school property, I create my own.

Here is my process:
  • I take one GPS receiver (GPSr) outside, locate, and mark various waypoints (spots for geocaches).
  • I hook the GPSr to my PC, open EasyGPS, and send all waypoints to the computer. I create a folder for the waypoints.
  • Next, I hook each GPSr, one at a time, to the PC and send all waypoints to them. 
  • I gather the caches. Some are plastic containers, others metal with magnets inside, some are old 35mm film containers.... I try to have a variety of different types of containers, similar to some that the students might encounter when geocaching out in "the wild."
  • I prepare the caches. In traditional geocaching, each cache contains a log sheet. I don't always do this in the interest of time. I tend to place stamps, decorative hole punches, or stickers in the caches and give the students index cards for them to mark the caches they have visited.
Sometimes the caches contain QR codes! More on that another time.

What an awesome way to get outside and get moving while incorporating various skills! The best part.... some students share geocaching with their families who then participate in it together! 

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