Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. It started off as quite a niche game for geeky adults with a bit of spare time and a love of their TomTom. But increasingly schools have been using geocaching to engage students and impart skills and knowledge in an unusual and exciting way.
How do you do it?
You can find out more about how to set up your own geocache in school grounds, and begin to understand the lingo at the Juicy Geography website. Or for more information about geocahcing in general, the geocaching website that started it all is well worth a look. Cybraryman’s directory of geocaching sites is also a mine of information.
How can it be used in schools?
As with many things, the only limit is your imagination. But here are some ideas to get you started.
GPS vs Orienteering
Have some pupils look for each cache using traditional orienteering whilst others use GPS devices. The competition element will keep the pupils super engaged and they will learn a lot, whether they are hunting with GPS or Maps. You may need to even the score a little e.g. by marking the exactly where the cache is on the orienteering map, or by giving the orienteering group a head start. Make sure that all pupils get to try both GPS and map reading.
Collaborative story telling
Have your pupils write a series of collaborative stories. Every story needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. The first group must write the beginning, the second group write the middle and the final group write the end. Share the stories back at class afterwards. You can make this easier by starting the stories for pupils. You could also write collaborative poems.
Let your pupils’ imaginations run wild by getting them into character and sending them on a treasure hunt. Perhaps you are learning about a specific period in history – say the Tudors – ask the pupils to assume the character of someone at that time, then give them more information about what life was like at each Geocahe – with props if possible. When they return to class they could write a journal article representing a day in the life of their character using what they’ve learnt.
History of the school
Create a historical tour of your school. Each cache will contain relevant information about the school’s history.
Understanding the Ecosystem of the school
Create a tour of your school’s ecosystems. Each cache contains information about a nearby plant, tree or habitat.
Enrich museum exhibits
(with prior permission from the museum etc) you can enrich trips out of school to e.g. museums or art galleries by hiding geocaches at or near relevant exhibits which provide additional information. This is a great way of getting your pupils to engage with specific exhibits / works of art etc and a lot more fun than traditional worksheets.
Getting to know the school
A great activity for year 7 pupils in September is to follow a multi-cache route to begin to get to know their way around the school. You could include information about different teachers, or what to do in certain circumstances in each cache (e.g. explain the role of the form tutor or what to do if there’s a fire drill etc). This has many benefits: pupils begin to understand the layout of the school, working in teams they get to know each other, and the school begins to feel a bit less daunting and more friendly to them too.
Calculate the next cache
Hide multiple caches and inside each cache include maths problems that will enable pupils to determine the coordinates of the next cache.
This can work for any subject. At each cache location pupil teams must complete a short quiz. They then seal their answers in an envelope before moving onto the next cache. The winning team is the team that has the most correct answers from all the quizzes combined.
Run, Run Run!
It’s no secret that a lot of pupils are not big fans of cross country running. Why not make things more exciting by introducing a team, geocahcing element? Ask the pupils to run from point to point and award a prize to the team that makes it to the finish first.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg… please leave a comment with your ideas or your experiences of using geocaching in school. And if you’re thinking of trying it for the first time, please let us know how you get on.