Still spreadin’ the word…

For the last five or six years, at least one of the GeoKs* and Sears Tower have volunteered to introduce geocaching to students at the Calgary Science School. Thanks to a donor, the school owns a set of Garmin Map 60CSx GPS receivers, so we usually start with a brief in classroom session on how to run the GPS units, then head outside onto the school grounds to search for some temporary, practice geocaches. A few days later, we’ll return to lead the students on a real geocaching adventure, in nearby North Glenmore Park and/or Weaselhead Natural Environment Park, both within walking distance of the school.

This year, the grade 6 Outdoor Education elective has been offered twice, and today we headed out with 23 grade 6 students, the teachers and another parent volunteer to search for geocaches in the snow. Because winter has stuck around for so long, and many of the students had a brief intro to using the GPS units when they were back in grade 4, we skipped the school yard practice session and headed directly for the park. We had 2 1/2 hours to find as many caches as possible!

My student group was enthusiastic, energetic and well-prepared (they all wore boots), so we headed down into the Weaselhead and walked a 7.5 km loop that netted a total of eight cache finds. The students found them all, including one that was stashed about 5 meters away from the flagging that was supposed to mark the hiding spot.

Grade 6 students geocaching in the Weaselhead

One of the caches we found was hidden for last year’s “Calgary Parks 100” celebration. Since one aspect of the Parks’ 100th anniversary was to put loaner GPS units in all the Calgary Public Library branches, this was a great opportunity to encourage the students to head to their nearest library to sign out a GPS unit and try geocaching with their families.

At our fifth stop, I discovered a little piece of our personal geocaching history…the signature card we left when we found the cache back on July 30, 2006…our 46th find!! I couldn’t resist putting that signature card in my pocket and bringing it back to share with the rest of the GeoKs family and confess I was a little disappointed when they weren’t very interested in this geocaching artifact.

Back at the school, we had time for a quick de-brief and concluded it’s definitely better to provide some up-front instruction on how to use the GPS units and to give the students some practice finding caches on the school grounds. If Outdoor Education is offered as a term 3 elective, we’ll definitely go back to Plan A! But even following Plan B, the kids (and I) had a great time in the sunshine. And one of the eight caches was a new find for team GeoKs, so we even got a smiley for volunteering!

* This term, Mrs. GeoK volunteered on behalf of the GeoKs.

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