Planning, Planning, Planning
This year, I had a bit of money left in the technology funding budget to purchase a Garmin etrex Venture HC. I have no experience with geocaching, so I've been collecting bookmarks for a while.
I kept trying to figure out how to arrange a field trip or a class period or two with the GPS and finally realized that our annual walk-a-thon/ field day would be perfect.
The DEN decided to have a Geocaching Day and in preparation they had a few webinars scheduled. Last week, I sat through the archived event and was really happy with the content. The event was led by Bridget Belardi. She has a nice wiki page on geocaching and it includes lots of teacher resources and her set of slides from the webinar.
I put together a short flipchart in Activstudio to get a feel for what students knew about geocaching, explain the activity, and let students register to try it on the field day.
Explaining Geocaching in the Classroom
I took some photos from the web to show what a geocache could look like. I asked questions like:
- What is a geocache?
- What is required?
- What would you be looking for?
Only one student had ever heard of geocaching and that same student had found all the caches at this park with his family. A fair number of students wanted to try geocaching at the park.
In advance of the field day I thought I would have to hide a geocache, but was stunned to find someone had already hidden a themes worth of caches. There are seven named after the Seven Dwarfs. Each cache has a number that will lead to the Snow White cache.
The Day Arrives
After a walk from the school to the park, I got out my list of seventh grade students who expressed an interest in trying geocaching. The students were tired from the walk and wanted to sit and watch a baseball game. Some sixth grade students overheard that I was trying to get a group to try the geocaching and wanted to go instead.
As we walked, I explained what we were going to do. They had a lot of fun following the arrow on the GPS unit. I knew, in advance, that the geocaches were all off the path that goes around the park. It took a bit to convince the students that we couldn't simply follow the GPS directions to head west because we would have to walk through a pond.
I was impressed with how well the unit worked! It was a really overcast day and I heard that some GPS units have trouble with cloud cover. This unit worked like a champ. We finally closed in to within 20 feet of the cache. I explained that we may not get a better lock on the location than 20 feet, so we started looking. My son had the unit at that point and actually got within 5 feet of the cache with the GPS.
I was a little worried that the students would get tired of hunting before we found the cache. They were really surprised that I didn't know where the cache was and that a stranger hid it. Luckily, I noticed a hole in a tree and what looked like a film canaster. I asked for a volunteer to reach in and get it. Sure enough, it was the cache. It was hidden in an M&M tube that was covered in camoflague contact paper. Inside was a little pen and a scroll of paper to sign.
They immediately wanted to find another cache. We tried another. This time, it was a really tiny two inch canaster covered in black tape and attached to a tree limb with a twist tie. It took a lot of searching, but armed with the excitment of having found one, they were determined to find this cache.
They would have liked to have found a third, but I wanted to see if I could take another group out. Unfortunately, by the time we got back, it was almost time to walk back to school.
Ideas for Next Year
A lot of teachers were really interested in what we were doing. I want to find a grade level and do a really thorough job of tying geocaching into the curriculum. There are so many ways to do this: longitude and latitude, measuring feet and fractions of miles, compass points, or hiding our own cache with a travel bug inside.
One of the many benefits of summer vacation is the luxury of planning time. I can't wait to do this over the coming years with many more students.