By: Kara Bonilla
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.
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: