Geocaching comes to the classroom

7 Jun 2005

I just finished a session called “Geocaching in Your Classroom” by Monte Gaukler, a Middle School Curriculum Technology Partner from Grand Forks. The group had a great time talking about how geocaching could find uses in a variety of subjects across a K-12 school district. Need to know a bit more about geocaching itself? Try the FAQ.

We used Garmen eTrex GPS units for our little adventure today. It looks like they can be had for about $100 each. The precision was not too bad (within 20 feet or so), but my Magellan does do a bit better. That said, I still think I’d go with the Garmin in a school setting where easy of use and low cost are more important factors.

Here’s a very short list of ideas for using geocaching and GPS in your classroom (these aren’t all mine):

  • To train your students to use their GPS receivers, give half of the class golf balls and have the kids hide them around the school grounds. After they set a “waypoint” at the location of the golf ball, the students return and give the GPS receiver to another student who uses it to go find the ball.
  • A P.E. teacher could create some caches and send students to go track them down. Instant exercise!
  • There are a lot of science applications. Students could do all sorts of water quality and other environmental studies and integrate their results with GIS. (Assuming you’ve got some good GIS software.)
  • The use of GPS for teaching about geography and math related to latitude and longitude are pretty obvious. It makes the whole discussion a lot more concrete when kids can walk outside and see their latitude and longitude in real time. (Make sure you talk about Dava Sobel’s book Longitude.)
  • This one’s a little more involved, but wouldn’t it be cool if some students used travel bugs to track the points on a map and learn about the local geography of the areas where the travel bugs go?

Craig reminded me of the Degree Confluence Project, an effort to “visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location.” Hurry, there are only 12,240 left to be found and photographed! It doesn’t take long to thoroughly boggle your mind when you stop and consider the way that GPS technology has rippled throughout our economy and culture.