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Geocaching for the Classroom

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Over the past few weeks I’ve become acquainted and interested in Geocaching.  As always, I’m looking for ways to use Technology, Life Experience and Fun in the classroom.  The more I get involved with Geocaching I see tons of ways it can be used in Math, LA/Writing, Social Studies, Science. This weekend for me was one of PE (Physical Education).  WOW, my legs hurt from the climbing!  I would like us to take a look a few of the ways that Geocaching can be used in each of these subject areas.

Math – With Geocaching students will be using GPS waypoints to find locations. Students can solve a math problem to get the waypoints. Then plug the waypoints into the GPS and find the cache.

Math – Students can use their GPS to calculate speed, distance and plot on a graph. They can answer questions about time, distance, area and speed.  They can then use their information to solve other scenarios without even leaving the classroom.

LA – I’m sure you’ve heard of picture prompts.  What about location prompts!?  Enough said…

LA – Students could create progressive stories.  If you have 4 or 5 groups with a GPS, each group could Geocache to different locations with each group crossing to each Geocache.  Each group will write a new paragraph to the progressive story at each Geocache.  At the end every story should be complete with a beginning,middle, and end.  Each group has written all 3 parts but in different stories.

SS – As a 4th grade teacher I’m a little partial to studying the Indians so my example will for that but can be used for other areas.   You can create waypoints of study.  In studying the Native Americans we would study their shelter, food, tools and regions.  I would create a Geocashe for each one of those topics.  At each stop the students would have to study, read or observe information about those topics and answer questions about each.  I would include pictures, essays, etc so the students could get a good idea of the concepts.  After completing the Shelter Geocashe they would move to the Food cash learning more information.

SS – Students are required to study maps in Social Studies so this is a great way to tie in maps.  They are learning Latitude & Longitude, Coordinates, Cardinal directions.

Science – Each Geocache can contain instructions on completing a Science activity such a building a lever, surveying what object has the most buoyancy, categorizing and then they can create a podcast explaining their findings, experience and results.

Science – You can also have learning stations setup at different Caching locations where the students participate in a learning activity. I remember at certain times of the year we would have our students rotate classes going to each teacher’s room where they would teach a specific related concept like Crust, Core, Mantel, Volcanoes, Landforms, Platelets, etc.   (plants, oxygen, photosynthesis, light, etc.) At the end of the Geocaching experience every student has rotated through each concept either learning new information or review former knowledge.

The ideas of how to use Geocaching are endless.  If your school campus is not big enough to Geocache then a nearby park would be a good location for these experiences.  If you have one of the new cell phones with GPS such as the Palm Pre, Blackberry or iPhone give this a try yourself.  After you’ve done it 2 or 3 times you will find all kinds of ways to use this with your students.  If you would like a listing of the Geocachings around your local area go to put in your zip code and you’ll find lots of them around you.  Each one will have a GPS co-ordinance for you to plug in and then you track it down.  We visited Inks Lake in Central Texas this weekend and did some Geocaching and my 3rd grader and Kindergartner loved it.  Not only that. I was able to give them a real world experience that they can use for prior knowledge in their Writing, Science, Social Studies and Math.

Please leave a comment telling all the ways you have used or are thinking of using Geocaching with your students.