Bringing Geocaching to the classroom
I was introduced to geocaching by a friend last year, and immediately was intrigued. We checked out the main Geocaching site and found there were some treasures located quite near where we live. How exciting… we checked out the descriptions, and we were able to find our first one with very little trouble… although digging around at night in the root of a tree was not what I planned… then seeing all the bugs… but the squeals of joy (yeah mine not the kids… hehehe) when my digging revealed that plastic fruit container painted black… and trying to then be non chalant so as not to attract attention from nearby “muggles” on their evening jog. (Muggles are non caching folk). We managed a few more, then got a GPS, and found some trickier ones. I now have a lovely little Garmin etrex which has proved itself to be very accurate. The kids have fun as long as I do all the work, and they are handy to have around as there are lots hidden in parks.
It has been interesting reading the logs, seeing the number of caches lost during the Black Saturday fires, and comments from local cachers that leaving caches in fallen trees was now becoming dangerous as the council was very quick to remove any possible “fire fuel”. I have fond some tricky micro ones in magnetic key holders, one in a “fake rock” (so happy to discover it wasn’t a cane toad – I was in Queensland), small containers near freeways and huge containers in bushland. I recently sent my first travel bug on his journey to sail the seven seas Jack the Pirate Bear Tonight I placed my first cache, carefully logging the co-ordinates into my GPS so I could post them onto the geocaching site, and with it tell a little story.
As well as being many types of cache containers, there are many types of cache, some are straight forward, some involve several points to collect the final cache site, others have puzzles, or cameras, or focus on a natural feature (earth cache).
To start out you log the Latitude and longtitude of the cache you wish to seek into your GPS, then follow the directions. When you get to “ground zero” there is often fossicking around looking for that spot that could hide a treasure. Some are definitely easier than others. Once found you sign the log book to record your visit (then electronically). You can take something, as long as you leave something of equal or greater value. Trackable items are logged in and out, and you can follow their journey around the globe (how exciting would that be for kids to watch as their mascot travels the world) Many travel bugs have “missions” some may be to travel to a specific place in the world, or take photos, or one I saw the other day was to only be placed in caches starting with K.
I wondered how such a fun activity could be used in the classroom, and how and what students could learn by playing this global hide and seek. Geography, environmentalism, history, maths and even some fun thown in, this had to be something worth exploring. Last year Nadine and I attended a virtual meeting run by the Innovations team of the DEECD, where we had speakers who had used caching with their classes at Healseville High School. The seed was planted, and the excitement level was rising. When the opportunity arose for the Innovating with Technology grants this year, I hooked a couple of enthusiastic Year 9 teachers to think about running something with 3C9. Nigel and Nadine were keen, we got the application in, and were successful… so here the fun will really start.
I hope this has made the fun of geocaching a bit more sensible to those who were wondering. Do you cache? Have you looked to see if there are any near you? If you do cache, what has been your best experience? Nigel and Nadine, and the other 3C9 people… what do you hope to achieve starting on this venture…. Did you realise each campus has at least one cache within a couple of hundred metres of it? Want to come and find it with me?