Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cool School Tool #2:
Geocaching Is “Caching On” in Schools

From time to time, I share in this blog a “cool tool for schools.” This might be a tool you will want to use, share with your staff, or pass along in a parent newsletter.


Are your students engaged in geocaching? If not, they’re missing out. Geocaching is “caching on” in schools around the country.

Geocaching, a kind of high-tech treasure hunt, involves students in using small portable GPS devices as they collect clues or information or trinkets. Students are actively absorbed as they learn about geography and other subjects. Geocaching can involve individuals, families, or entire communities.

Some call geocaching a sport. Others call it a hobby. Or a game. Whatever you call it, it is providing exercise and fun for individuals and families around the world. And many schools, after-school programs, and community groups are using geocaching to engage students…

Colts Neck, New Jersey. Fourth graders are charting the “westward expansion” of four caches. Four of the school’s families dropped off “travelbug” caches locally and recorded their locations. They posted the geographic coordinates of the caches on the Geocaching Web site. Other geocaching enthusiasts use the site to track down local caches and follow the instructions attached to them. In the case of the fourth graders, they ask each person who locates their cache to move it closer to the west coast. As a geocacher moves one of the students’ caches, they use its identification number to access its online record and enter its new location’s geographic coordinates. There the cache will sit until another geocacher comes along and moves it farther west. Back at school, the students are tracking on a large map the westward movement of their four caches. [Read a News Transcript article about their project, Colts Neck Pupils Track Travelbugs’ Adventures]

Hamlet, North Carolina. Instructional technologists here have adapted geocaching to their own uses. They created a geocaching activity to train local teachers in the use of GPS, and now those teachers are using what they learned to create activities that adapt the technology to their own curricula. For example, one elementary-grade teacher had students use the GPS devices to track down a cache that included a plastic gray squirrel, a box turtle, a pine needle, and a picture of a dogwood blossom; those students were learning about geography, technology, and their state’s official symbols. [Read more in a blog posting, Geocaching at School]

Jackson County, Oregon. This county’s Library Services group recently introduced a “Find That Book” geocaching event. Copies of a book were hidden in five regions of the county. Students use the coordinates posted on the Geocaching Web site to track down the book. When they find the book, they autograph it and return the cache to its spot for the next person to find. Finders’ names will be printed in a local newspaper at the end of the month-long event.

Have students in your school or area gotten involved in geocaching? We’d enjoy hearing your about your experience. Please take a few moments, click the pencil below, and share your thoughts about geocaching as a learning activity.

Read More
Read more about geocaching and a similar activity called letterboxing…
  • Wiggins Treasure Hunt Teaches Skills
  • Letterboxing: Clues Lead Kids on an Educational Adventure
  • Letterboxing With Children: Walking With a Purpose
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