Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rainy Day Blues? Try Terra Clues!

So you've planned this great caching lesson with your students only to find the weather not cooperating! If inclement weather is stopping you in your tracks, there are many indoor options from which to choose. Of course, GPS is not able to be used indoors without some pretty sophisticated (and expensive) equipment. If the computer lab is open, try Terra Clues for Schools: a free google maps-integrated scavenger hunt. Log in for a free teacher's account and you can create your own online hunts or use already-made hunts. You can assign a class username and password for your students to log in with and can even track their progress by their individual sign-in name. I found that some of my students enjoyed this so much that several of them created their own! Try this Tutorial Hunt to see how it works. Then, check out some hunts I stored in my classroom page for my students to have access to. The username is: educaching and the password is woodland. Many of these hunts are educational like exploring continents and oceans or studying Native Americans, but some are just for fun like finding locations from the Harry Potter series or searching for famous baseball stadiums. The idea here is that students are searching and digging for knowledge using Google as a search engine, as well as searching spatially with layers of mapping. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Stay tuned for more rainy day ideas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Money, Money, Money...

How can money be scrounged up for all those GPS units for your class or school? There are plenty of resources out there. If you're new to the process, you're probably wondering about how many to buy or what type is the best. I am hoping to answer questions like this in subsequent posts, but for now, do some research and try a few of the websites listed in the document below. Also, keep your eye on Apisphere's Geomate, Jr.. For districts who want the most bang for the buck, this little GPS packs a mean punch. For around $70 per receiver, you get a user-friendly, mac/pc compatible, geocaching-ready device. The best part is, Apisphere has a custom cache page where you can create and save your own teacher-made caches on your school campus and easily download the waypoints to your geomate receivers.

There are many options out there and many questions you'll want to research like features, brands, other field tools to purchase, etc. Do not be discouraged by a lack of money in your district. If you believe that using GPS with your students can be a great motivational and educational tool to help your students succeed, like I do, then put in the time to make it happen! Check some of the resources below and let me know others you find so they can be shared.

Happy hunting!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Super Spies

So...want to take your students on a secret agent hunt? Why not use a cypher or code wheel to have them decode messages they find in caches. You could even create a vocabulary hunt where they find the encrypted definition of a word, then crack the code and solve for the meaning of the word!

Click below for a downloadable PDF of a geocaching mystery wheel from

Check out Geocacher University's web site for some more great ideas and printables.

Let the hunt for learning begin!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finding Direction...

Anyone who has tried to show students how to use a GPS receiver before going into the field knows that there are certain things you must go over with them if they are to be successful. For example, if your receivers do not have a built-in electronic compass (which most affordable models do NOT), then you must tell them that they have to keep moving in order for the arrow pointer to continue pointing in the right direction. There are so many other things that can lead to student frustration quickly and, ultimately, lead away from the point of the lesson.

Take it from me, a teacher in the trenches who has seen Murphy's Law in effect on more than one occasion while teaching GPS to students: Try guiding them step-by-step, in a constructivist approach, and build upon basic skills. Do this while hunting for something very simple, like golf balls or tennis balls...easy to hide and not too difficult to find. Create an instruction sheet with an explanation of the receiver's main buttons, functions, and screens, as well as helpful tips. Below is a link to a document I made using the Garmin GPS60 receiver. Use it as a template for the receivers you use in order to make your GPS receivers more user-friendly to your students. Below that, is another great resource called Geocaching Cheat Sheets featured on

Good luck and let the hunt for learning begin!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In The Beginning...

It's difficult to describe what GPS looks like in the realm of education without first KNOWING what geocaching is. Geocaching has been described many ways, but I like to refer to one definition I heard: "...using muti-million dollar satellites to locate Tupperware in the woods." Geocaching, rooted in the grand state of Oregon just at the turn of the century, is a high-tech treasure hunt using GPS devices to look for hidden "caches" all over the world.

Watch this great movie from which explains the whole process:

So...if you haven't tried this out yet...what are you waiting for?! Sign up for a free account and begin geocaching. As an educator, you will immediately see the implications for students. The potential for educational activities developed around a hunt for learning is immense. Search the wealth of geocaches around the world to get a taste of how some amazing educators are setting up learning hunts for anyone to try and conquer.

What are the implications of geocaching 
for your students?