Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Geocaching and Education, part 3 - Subject Integration

This is post #3 in a series of free resources for educators interested in using geocaching in education and other community groups like scouts or camps. The material is pulled directly from Educaching GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers. If interested in more resources, check out
Jason Hubbard, Author
         Every subject area can be combined with GPS technology to create challenging and educational hunts for your students. Let me give you an example:
Let’s say you want to have your students read some newspaper articles in order to keep up with current events about a particular topic. Take a few articles of your choice, cut them out, and hide them as educaches. Your students form groups, take a GPS receiver, paper and a pencil, and go out to seek their group’s article. Once found, each group will read their article aloud or silently and write a brief summary of the article to later present to the class. Voila! You’ve just tied in reading, writing, social studies (or whatever subject the articles cover), geography (latitude and longitude), and technology. 
It is easy to tailor Educaching to meet the needs of your classroom.
Think about the elements of discovery available in your local area. What local history is just waiting to be explored through the use of GPS? A historic fort? An old canal or lock system? In regard to ecology, is there a river system or forest that can be mapped, explored, or discovered by your students? Is there a problem in your community that could be solved by your students and connect them to technology and their duty as a citizen? For example, in the area I teach and live, there is a natural invader which has sprung up over the past few years, known as the emerald ash borer. This mean, green beetle devastates large populations of ash trees and has been spreading across the Midwest states. Through awareness, the bug’s progress has been hampered, fortunately. What opportunities do you as a teacher see to promote further awareness to you students and the community you teach in? Could you and your students team up with the local forestry department or city employees to map out areas of the community that have been invaded by the emerald ash borer? Could your students continue to keep tabs on the situation over the years and help the city work toward a solution? Why not? The possibilities are unlimited. What areas of your curriculum could be enhanced through the use of the geocaching concept at school?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Geocaching and Education, part 2 - Vocabulary Lesson

This is post #2 in a series of free resources for educators interested in using geocaching in education and other community groups like scouts or camps. The material is pulled directly from Educaching GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers. If interested in more resources, check out
Jason Hubbard, Author

Know The Lingo!

In order to embark upon this adventure, you will need to familiarize yourself with the terminology of an educacher. Here’s your language lesson:
cache – This is the first word you need to know! It is pronounced just like the word “cash.” The original word refers to some sort of a hiding place that items were temporarily stored in. Your computer has a memory cache where files are stored in order to gain quick access. In this book, we will refer to any item that is hidden as an Educache (defined below).
coordinates – These are the latitude and longitude measurements which, combined, make up a waypoint. They can be displayed a variety of ways (refer to your GPS receiver manual), but the default setting for most GPS receivers is to show you coordinates in decimal minutes, which is used for the examples in the lessons of this book. The format looks like this example: N41°33.383   W83°36.280
The N and W are your headings (North and West), the first two numbers in each set show you the degrees, and the 5 digit decimal number following is the minutes converted to decimal form. Note: The full coordinate format is degrees, minutes, and seconds
Educache – Any item or container that is hidden for students to find and directly applies to their learning.
Educaching – This is a teacher-led, student-driven hunt for learning involving GPS technology, mapping, teamwork, and adventure! The students work in teams and use latitude and longitude coordinates to find hidden puzzles, science experiments, math problems, and many other educational lessons.
geocaching – Geocaching is the original adventure sport for GPS users that originated in 2000. The sport involves people from all over the world with caches hidden all over the world. Many caches hide bits of history, puzzles, track-able items that travel the world, tiny trinkets to take and to leave, or just a log to sign that proves you found one!
GPS – This is short for the global positioning system, which is a system of 27 satellites (24 active, 3 for backup) that circulate the globe sending signals that are picked up by GPS receivers.

GPS receiver (GPSr) – A unit that can fit in the palm of your hand or on the dashboard of your vehicle that will receive signals from several of the GPS satellites and allow you to pinpoint your location (or the location of something else) anywhere on Earth. Most smartphones come equipped with an onboard, reliable GPS chipset that can be used with extremely affordable apps to find caches.

field sheet – The field sheet is what students take with them out into the schoolyard in order to record measurements, log findings, solve puzzles, and record other data relevant to the lesson. It serves as their written record and is used when they return to the classroom for debriefing of the lesson and further study.  

student/teacher map – These maps are fundamental in implementing each lesson. An Educache can certainly be found without using a map, but will be used in these lessons to hold students accountable to the locations they find and will increase mapping skills, directional awareness, and will allow the students to create a model of distances and measurements. The teacher will use the teacher map in preparation of the activities in order to have a physical model on paper of where each Educache is located. The students will each have a copy of the student map so they can draw and log the locations and waypoints and, in many cases, create a physical representation of the data they’ve found for later study.
trackpoints – a single dot that appears on the GPS display recording user movement. 
travel bug/geocoin – These are the names of just a few of the items that can be purchased online and sent to travel wherever you want them to go. Their progress can be tracked online, with stories and pictures logged by the finders of these items as they make their journey to other states and countries. See the Beyond The Basics section for applicable uses of these items with your classroom.
waypoint – A waypoint is a marked location that is stored in the memory of your GPS receiver. When you hide an educache for your students, you will mark the waypoint in your GPS receiver and on your teacher map for reference. You will give these waypoints to your students in order to find an educache at that given location.