|Grade span:||3 to 12|
|Duration:||2-3 sessions of 60-90 minutes each|
Description:In this lesson, students locate objects hidden outdoors using a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. This geography-based approach to problem-solving, called geocaching, is a fun and engaging way to evaluate students' understanding of longitude and latitude, global navigation, and the Global Positioning System. It also tests their ability to manipulate technology. Activities can be adapted for various learning levels and enrich various subject areas, including geography, math, and science.
- Enhance and extend students' understanding of global geography
- Increase visual acuity
- Develop technology skills using handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers
- Computers with Internet access
- Digital projector (optional)
- Handheld GPS receivers, which may be purchased from a local discount or sporting goods store (one GPS unit for every 2-3 students)
- Digital cameras (optional)
- Paper and pencil for field notes and journal entries
- Objects to hide in caches (for example, Mr. Potato Head parts, other trinkets)
Preparation:Instructors should determine students' understanding of longitude and latitude and their technology skill levels. Basic keyboarding skills will be required. Instructors should also have basic computer skills, basic geography skills, and experience operating both a digital projector and a handheld GPS receiver.
- Become familiar with your GPS handheld units. Follow the instructions that are included with your units.
- Familiarize yourself with the resources available at the Geocaching Web site.
- Create caches and either report them to the Geocaching Web site registry, or record coordinates manually.
What to Do:Introduce students to geocaching
- Using a computer with Internet access and projector (optional), access the Geocaching Web site (www.geocaching.com) and provide an overview of this worldwide recreational activity.
- Generate and build on student interest by entering your afterschool location to see what caches might be nearby.
- If possible, arrange to take students to look for one of the caches registered on the Web site.
- Before the session begins, hide parts of a Mr. Potato Head in caches in the schoolyard and record their coordinates.
- Divide students into small groups, each with an adult supervisor, or have them work together without an adult.
- Using the handheld GPS receivers and coordinates provided, the group or groups should locate the caches. Discuss units of distance (for example, miles, feet) during the search process, and define geocaching vocabulary (for example, cache, satellite, waypoints, coordinates).
- Have students make an entry in the logbook at each cache to reinforce proper geocaching etiquette.
- Before the session begins, create a cache or several caches in the schoolyard or in nearby locations. Record the coordinates from the GPS. Helpful hints on creating your first cache can also be found at the Geocaching Web site. This site also includes information on listing your cache so that others may find it. Note: You must be a registered user of the site to list a cache in the online registry.
- Divide students into groups of three, with one GPS receiver per group. In order to involve each student, assign roles, such as GPS handler, logbook keeper, and photographer (if you use cameras). Change roles so that everyone has a chance to use the GPS receiver and enter coordinates.
- Give each group coordinates to a cache and have them find it. Document the search using notes and photos (optional).
- Discuss the geocaching activity.
- Have older students write a description of the experience on a computer, including search coordinates they used, and any photos of their find.
- If this was a registered cache, have students make an entry in the Geocaching Web site.
Evaluate (Outcomes to look for):
- Understanding of plotting techniques and geographical terminology, including latitude and longitude
- Comfort using technology tools, including the Internet and handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to enhance learning
Click this link to see additional learning goals, grade-level benchmarks, and standards covered in this lesson.
Learn More:Take geocaching beyond treasure hunting, and make it a nature study, creative writing opportunity, or other activity. For some ideas, see the Resources page.