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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learn More About Geocaching - A Great Outdoor Learning Activity

Geocaching is a fun, educational, technology-infused activity that I have tried a couple of times. But I am by no means an expert (totally newbie would be the description) on the topic. Therefore, I asked Jen Deyenberg if she would write a guest post about geocaching. Jen has done extensive work developing geocaching activities with students and has a ton of knowledge to share. After reading this post I hope you will visit her blog to learn more about geocaching.

A virtual treasure hunt to get students moving and motivated to solve challenges with technology outside?  Using a multimillion dollar satellite network to find plastic containers filled with interesting learning activities? Get your students using orienteering, team work, and problem solving skills by using geocaching in your classroom!

Gecaching is an outdoor challenge which use latitude and longitude co-ordinates and GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites to find a hidden cache, usually a plastic container, sign the log book.  You use the website www.geocaching.com to find and download the co-ordinates of caches near you. You just need to sign up for a free account! You can use any device which receives a GPS signal to place and find geocaches, whether it is an app on a smartphone or a dedicated handheld GPS device. I use caches on the www.geocaching.com network to learn about history, geography, or the local area.  Most caches are hidden somewhere that is a place of interest, whether it is a beautiful spot, or a place of historical, geographic, or geologic significance.  It is a great way to learn about a place you are visiting!  This cache is all about two submarines from World War II that you can see when the tide is out, off the coast of Scotland:  Some caches have small prizes you can trade, or trackable ‘travel bugs’ that each have their own code, and page on the www.geocaching.com website so you can see where they have been and where they are trying to go.  If you take something, you leave something.  If you take a travel bug, a trackable item, you are supposed to move it along to another cache.
Dorothy  is one of my travel bugs, it has been in Canada and all over the UK.

I hide temporary caches, just for my students, in the school yard.  They don't have toys or travel bugs in them, rather they designed around content based learning outcomes.  I have the students design geocaching containers to hold pieces of a story to sequence and put in order, letter stamps to use to spell out vocabulary words, science experiments, or even math problems.  The challenge is to work in a group to find the caches, solve the problems in the caches together, all while using handheld GPS devices and being active outside.  Have a look at Trails Optional to see how to set up school yard geocaching and some ideas for content to put in geocaches.

Geocaching really appeals to students who might use a lot of technology but not be very interested in physical activity and the outdoors.  Skills of cardinal directions, distance estimation, map grids, latitude and longitude, and topography are all taught through geocaching!  Children of all ages love to use a tracking device such as a GPS device to lead them to a hidden treasure and learn in the process.

Jen Deyenberg is a primary teacher. She is Canadian, but is currently residing in Scotland.She loves to play with computers, read, swim, geocache, hike, and jog.  You can find her on Twitter
@jdeyenberg