Geocaching Finds Its Way To the Classroom

By: Kara Bonilla

West Mercer Elementary Students geocaching

Teachers for all grade levels have begun to use the location-based treasure hunting adventure of geocaching as a teaching tool. Teachers say students learning through geocaching enjoy benefits far beyond learning outside of a classroom setting; geocaching makes learning more enjoyable and creates unforgettable learning opportunities for students.

Ellis Reyes, a fifth grade teacher at West Mercer Elementary in Washington, USA, has been using geocaching in the classroom for the past two years. He integrates the activity into several subjects.

Ellis hides different types of geocaches for his students to find on campus and in nearby local parks. One of his favorite ways to utilize geocaching involves using multi-step puzzle caches to teach math. Ellis calls this “GEO-metry Caching.”

A lesson involving geocaching in Ellis’s classroom tasks students to use several sets of skills, especially problem solving and advanced math skills.

Ellis says the students are excited to explore geocaching in school, “The kids love using geocaching to learn. It’s about solving puzzles and creative thinking, and getting out of the classroom, what’s better than that?”

With other subjects, such as language arts, Trackables come in handy for Ellis’ class. The students drop their own Trackables in geocaches close to school. They then follow each Trackable’s movements as a class. Ellis has each student create a background story for their personal Trackable. When the Trackable makes a stop, Ellis has his students add more to the story. Soon, the students develop a narrative about the Trackables journey.

Students develop the required skills in the curriculum and learn critical thinking and spatial concepts with the combination of geocaching and additional lesson planning.

A "GEO-metry" lesson plan from Ellis Reyes

Fourth grade teacher Eva La Mar has had a portion of her classes dedicated to teaching geocaching for the past eight years. At Riverbend Elementary in Oregon, USA, Eva teaches the various tools students need to go geocaching, including directional knowledge, the concepts of latitude and longitude and how GPS signals work.

“I love the sport, the exercise, the thinking that is involved.  Seeing students motivated and connecting with learning is what education is all about.  This is real-life learning.”

Eva also incorporates geocaching into other fourth grade studies. Geology being a fourth grade topic, EarthCaches fit perfectly into her lesson plan. Through EarthCaching and other variations of geocaching, studying the Oregon Trail becomes very real to students. The geocaches students find as a class show the many stops along the trail, helping them understand the concept of “trail-blazing.” Eva’s students love geocaching so much, she says, that most of them have turned geocaching into a family affair. This last year, Eva held a geocaching field trip that both students and parents attended.

Use of geocaching as a teaching tool has become very popular. There are already books and web pages dedicated to geocaching and education, making it easy for teachers to integrate geocaching into their classrooms.

Groundspeak is actively working on a project to create easier ways for all teachers to use geocaching in their classrooms and to share their experiences and work with other educators. There’s even a geocaching guidebook for teachers.

Watch this video of students learning through geocaching:


  • Jusward

    Great idea.

  • Creativekeys

    As a teacher and a geocacher, I think this is a great idea! But how do you get a class set of GPSr’s? Or even one per group of three or four kids? They are rather pricey, and I typically get about $100 in classroom funds each year ( which also has to pay for things like mothers day crafts etc).

  • Kara R Bonilla

    Look into Donor’s Choose!

  • Karuhbeee

    look into donors choose!

  • Captnkirk17

    I made some Powerpoint slides for teaching geocaching merit badge to Boy Scouts.  If you would like a copy of them feel free to email me at captnkirk(at)foldingingtikibar(dot)com and request them.  I think the do a pretty good job of teaching it to that age group.

  • Ranger275

    Getting a full class set would be difficult. Getting a handful of them and letting the kids use them in small groups is much more realistic – or teaming up with another teacher or the media-technology specialist/librarian and getting 10 or 12 to share is even more doable. Obviously we can’t do it from classroom funds so the next step is to look for grant money. Even in economically tough times, there are organizations that have funds available to help teachers implement great ideas.

  • Connie

    Check with your ISD.  I believe the one here has a few classroom sets to use for those who’ve attended their geocaching workshop.

  • Connie Hergott

    our city library loans them out to people with library cards.  Maybe partner with a scouting group or something?

  • Linda Franklin

    My principal and I went to our parents club and asked for a mini-grant for several GPSr’s.  He also accessed some TAG money to buy several more.  We have used them for several Talented and Gifted special projects as well as whole class activities.  I use them with my special education students to work on concepts of estimating (time and distance), directions, latitude and logitude, etc.   I really like the idea of putting challenging questions and tasks into hidden locations and will be using that idea while the weather is still good when we return to school next month.

  • Vanessa Buckle1

    I work in a school and we geocache as part of the geography sessions. It also forms part of the PE sessions by having to walk on alternating levels.

  • tk

    I’ve used geocaching in my second grade classroom for introducing the concepts of latitude and longitude, for reinforcing directionality, and measurement.  Doing cross grade level exploration, high school students hid caches for my students to find, then my students hid caches for the high schooler and for the other second grade class and both of the first grades.  The enthusiasm for it was so good that a geocaching component was added to our final family fun night that our school hosted before summer vacation.

  • Fraujensen

    You may want to ask around your district (science or social studies curriculum, or the tech people) to see if your district owns some GPS’s. I was surprised to find out that our district owns a set of 10, which they loan out to teachers. We have to drive to the district office to pick them up, but it’s better than trying to come up with my own. 🙂

    I have 6th grade and many of my students have iPhones and there’s a geocaching enabled app. I’ll bet if I asked, they’d all want to put it on their iPhones…..

    Just think creatively.

  • Travellingdeon

    A four square court that is less than 1000 square centimeters? Is this school in Lilliput?

    Great ideas. I love the real-world measurements!

  • Csheehan

    I bought a couple of those Geomate Jrs. for my class and divide the kids into teams, along with the geocaching ap on the iPhones.  My kids are completely hooked and even have their families involved on vacations, etc.

  • Ducktagnan

    In England, North London, taking year 7 on geography field trip around local village. Had to pass local geocache, couldn’t resist introducing students to my hobby. Ducktagnan

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been using it in my homeschooling for a few years.  Glad “schools” are catching on.

  • Fourcretins

    I would like to suggest that you inquire at your local college or university. Ours has a Geocaching Club which has purchased several GPSr’s that the community may check out for use much like a library book.

  • I would love to start this in my Japanese schools here on Okinawa!

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  • Semper_Gumby

    Would love a copy of your materials to teach this merit badge.  wstrothe@bellsouth.net

  • Tkallove

    would like to get a copy of your teaching materials. Thanks tkallove (at) comcast (dot) net

  • captnkirk17

    Older GPS receivers often show up on eBay or at garage sales etc. and often sell for around $10.

    Computer UPS interfaces, color screen etc. will cost a little more.

  • AlphaWolfe

    Also if your area has a geocaching group like mine does they may be willing to help with getting or even teaching geocaching