Adventures in Geocaching

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This week my nephews are in town.  They love playing outdoors, have crazy fun imaginations and are loads of laughter.  My 10 year counts down the days each year until they arrive at gramma’s!  Its more exciting than end of school countdown.

On Tuesday I was brainstorming with mom and looked into geocaching.  I had never been, only heard it mentioned a few times and needed to learn how it worked.  So I went to geocaching.com registered an account, downloaded the app and yesterday, we set off on our first adventure.

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Though most were the grab and go – the kids enjoyed it and were super excited when we found a cache filled with kids party favor swag.  Only problem, we had to scavenger the car to find some trade items…a creative venture in itself. 

Each find has a log where you date and sign to prove you were there.  There are hints, clues on the app if you have trouble locating it.  For example, one clue was Australia.  We looked around trying to connect something with that and finally “down-under.”  Sure enough, the cache was underneath the landmark.

We found 10 on our first day and learned some great tips.  We even saw a robin’s egg that had fallen from the nest, a double rainbow as we drove from place to place, played on a playground and visited the gravesite of their great grandparents as one cache was near the cemetary.

Some very clever hiding techniques!  One cache was so tiny, we thought it was only a magnet that had lost its container somehow!  It took a while to roll the log back small enough to place in it again!

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Some where along the way, someone asked if I could spell supercalifragilisticexpealidocious (sp?).  My oldest nephew said, well, it shouldn’t be that difficult if you just break it apart.  True.  My response, most words are the same way.  For example, geocache.  Geo is earth, cache, a hiding place.  Which led me to geometry…geo, earth; metry, to measure.  I went on to explain how people wanted to measure distances, areas of land, patterns they noticed in the earth, so they created geometry. 

I explained how people noticed patterns with their shadows at different times of day.  I asked, when is your shadow longest, when is it shortest?  Without a hesitation, someone popped up, when the sun is on the horizon, your shadow is longest, when the sun is above you, your shadow is shortest.  I asked how do you know?  One said well, we learned that in science, but if you think about it, it just makes sense.

Again, I am convinced we force too many ideas on our students rather than just letting them think about it and develop their own sense of reasoning.

On our earlier finds, I allowed the kids to look at the GPS readings on the app.  They had to decide which direction to go -are we too close or too far north, and how far to walk.  We needed to moved west once and they could use the compass corectly, but I asked, what if we didnt have it pointing out the directions for us?  I explained how the sun sat to the west and each time after that, they immediately gauged direction based on the sun.

When I returned home after dark, I tweeted of our adventures.  In a convo,

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So, now I am curious…how can/are teachers using geocaching as a context for learning?

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7 responses »

  1. I had the opportunity as a principal to lead my staff in PD. One of our activities was geocaching; I hid clues about the topic we were learning. Teachers found the clues and then went back to work in groups to sort the clues into meaningful posters. The outdoor fun, the sorting, classifying were all great preludes to our discussion!

  2. My family loves geocaching. We discovered it last fall and picked it up again as soon as the days were long enough to head out for an hour after dinner. My girls, 12 and 6 love it but I’m pretty sure the Mr. is the biggest fan as well as our short-legged hound who turning out to have a nose for finding caches without a gps. πŸ™‚
    I’ve been using the geocaching to teach my girls longitude and latitude as well as true north vs magnetic north, using landmarks as road signs and finding out how tall that tree or mountain really is. The girls think it’s some awesome fun. We do a lot of plant id and if we stay out long enough we stargaze as well, my 12yo wants to be a botanist or some other science based enthusiast. Since we’re only a stone’s throw from the wilderness we learn survival and end some of our trips with a weenie roast.
    I just started a blog to follow our adventures as well as figuring out how to keep sane during summer vacation. πŸ˜€

  3. Just returned from visiting with my parents (the mega-cachers!) and had to comment. πŸ™‚ I’ve used stories about geocaching adventures in my classes just to tell stories about my family and to build relationships, but then I usually manage to squeeze in a problem or two about caching. Here are my examples from my class notes, and I’ve added a few other ideas: http://goo.gl/ugTP3E. The students usually laugh when I describe what we’ve done for geocaching, but every single year, I’ll have a student or two (juniors and seniors) who will confess to me that they’ve tried it and have found caches.
    Loved the idea about geocaching for staff development! Hmmm…

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