We posted an entry a few weeks ago about setting up a geocaching activity for an upcoming grade 8 overnight camping trip. We went out to the camp in advance and set out 8 geocaches for the students to find and I’m happy to report that the overall experience was very positive.
Most of the students hadn’t used a dedicated GPS receiver before, so the first task after dividing the students up into teams of 3 or 4 (25 students at a time), was to hand out the Garmin Map60CSx units and give a bit of an overview on how the work, some of the functionality and some basic instruction on how to enter the coordinates for the geocaches they’d be searching out. Students also had a puzzle cache to solve, based on math questions from the grade 8 curriculum.
Then we set them loose to find the hidden containers. Instead of a log book to sign, each cache held either a uniquely-shaped hole punch or a secret word. Students punched holes in a card they carried around or made note of the secret word inside the 2 micro caches. Students with six different holes punched into their cards and two secret words noted on the cards at the end of an hour had proof they’d successfully found all 8 geocaches.
There were a couple of minor hiccups with the geocaches themselves. Most notably, the hole punches were locked closed when they were put into the containers, but the students unlocked them to use them and then put them back into the containers unlocked. Unfortunately, that meant it was almost impossible to get the punch out of the re-purposed, camo-painted 1 litre water bottle and the container got pretty beat up.. Another container (a small lock ‘n’ lock hidden in a custom camo bag) ended up migrating, from the tree it was originally hanging in to one about 12 meters away. This was the hardest one to retrieve at the very end of the activity, as we were packing up all the containers to take back to Calgary.
As for lessons learned in terms of what to emphasize during the initial half-hour of instruction, I’d say we need to spend a bit more time on using the map and compass screens to hone in on ground zero. Otherwise, the students did a really good job of passing around the GPS units so they all gained some experience and the activity was long enough that several groups found all the caches, not everyone did, so I think the difficulty level was just about right. I guess we’ll know for sure when we’re invited back to set up a similar activity next school year – or not!!