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How Dr. Polley, “Educacher” Extraordinaire, Incorporates Geocaching in his Classroom

Educaching 4th
Hip hip hooray for geocaching in the classroom

For most of us, geocaching is a hobbya way to get outside and explore the world around us. To Stanley Polley, a 4th and 7th grade science teacher at the Loveland Classical School, geocaching is much more than that. Two years ago, he began to teach geocachingmost notably Mystery cachesin his classroom as a way to engage and inspire his students. He soon discovered, that “Educaching” was not only a hit with the kids, but a great educational tool as well.

Dr. Polley let us pick his brain about how he brings geocaching into the classroom. This is what we learned.

What inspired you to start a geocaching program with your students?

The first time I used geocaching in the classroom was two years ago, teaching 6th graders about constellations and the life cycle of stars.  Our class sent out 4 Travel Bugs, and as they moved, students used online resources to determine what constellation would be visible at night from the exact coordinates of the geocache each TB was in.  

Travel Bugs B
The kids create their own trackables and watch them travel around the world

 

Can you walk us through the organization of your geocaching program?

I use geocaching in many ways, including an elaborate Classroom Competition and Academic Mystery Caching.

Classroom Competition: I split all of my classes into smaller science themed teams, and give students/teams opportunities to earn points. The team with the highest point value at the end of the year enjoys a decadent donut party. At the start of each year each team creates highly personalized team Geocache and team Travel Bugs. The number of cache finds, pictures logged, and TB miles traveled impact each teams point total. Students can also check-out GPS units to go find our class caches, as well as the 30+ Science/Math/Music Mystery Caches.

Academic Mystery Caches: Individual students can earn points for their team by solving scientific problems in the form of Mystery caches. There are currently 33 active Mystery Caches. The puzzle caches vary greatly in difficulty so that content can be differentiated for students at different ability levels. Physical copies of each puzzle are available in each classroom as well, so that students without consistent internet access have an opportunity to solve the puzzle and check-out a GPS to find the physical cache.  By solving a Mystery Cache, students earn points for their teams regardless of whether they actually go to find the cache at the physical location.

These Mystery Cache puzzles are not homework, yet students ask me for new puzzles on a daily basis. In fact, a policy had to be established that they don’t have the physical copies of the puzzles out during other classes. That’s exactly what I want to see, ravenous learners.

I have expanded the Mystery Cache curriculum to include puzzles from multiple subjects, including Math, Music, and History. In collaboration with math teacher Lindsay Stahl, we have created dozens of supplemental academic opportunities for students of all different ability levels. Soon a series of caches will be published in collaboration with our Art, Latin, and English faculty. The types of Mystery caches will change through the year to align with the curriculum.  

 

What were your biggest challenges when setting up the program?

The biggest challenge has been communicating the nuts-and-bolts of Mystery geocaches to parents and students. Early on I had a few student cachers searching diligently at the virtual coordinates. I’ve started placing virtual coordinates in a nearby lake to avoid confusion. I have no scuba diving stories yet. ☺

 

What values do you believe geocaching brings to students?

All of my complex science, math, and history puzzles are completely optional. The fact that students love to do these puzzles anyways shows tremendous character and loyalty to their teams. Our school’s motto is “Fallamur ut floreamus,” which means “Let us falter that we may flourish” in Latin. The academic puzzles my students solve require a lot of faltering, which make the flourishing all the sweeter.

mystery caches printout
Mystery puzzle galore!

Overall, how have your students reacted to geocaching in the classroom?

They seem to love it. It’s awesome to see how excited my students get when I show them new Travel Bug pictures or report a find of their team cache. A handful of students have become fanatics, as a group logging over 1500+ finds, 82 hidden caches, and 35+ new geocaching accounts.

“The Scarlet Beaver made science class a class to look forward to every day. The competition of the different teams and earning points through travel bugs and geocaches made it the best class in school. Now I Geocache on a daily bases. It is my favorite hobby and my biggest addiction.”

Benjamin Treat, 8th Grade
Butterf (719 Finds)

 

What advice can you give to teachers who’d like to set up a similar geocaching program in their classrooms?

I would say that it takes a lot of consistency. The reason the classroom competition works is because I start each class with a very brief update on the team scores and any activity for each team’s travel bug, geocaches, and students who solved an Academic Puzzle.

 

You also started a geocaching club at your school. Could you tell us more about it?

The geocaching club has been a blast. The club focuses on making and hiding creative caches. The only rule of geocaching club is that the caches they create have to be Mystery Caches, with a puzzle that uses what they are learning from one of their classes. Club members have made Chemistry, Music, and Latin puzzle caches, with many more to come. Soon we will be organizing CITO events to support our community.

Educaching 7th
7th grade educaching

Anything else you’d like to add?

Life is Good! Cache-On!

 

Dr. Polley geocaches under the usernames MrPolleyClass and The Scarlet Beaver. If you are an educator and have an interest in incorporating geocaching in your classroom, Dr. Polley is a fantastic resource. Feel free to reach out to him through Geocaching.com.

And on another note, if you’ve hidden a Mystery cache, know that your geocache description could be circulating around his classroom!

Dr. Polley
Dr. Polley is the best!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” Author Talks Geocaching

diary of a wimpy kid

Geocaching partnered with Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney to create a fun set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul trackable tags to celebrate the book’s release last year. What you may not know is that the Wimpy Kid trackables came about because Jeff Kinney is a geocacher. He enjoys taking his kids out on geocaching adventures. We are thrilled that he wanted to share one of his geocaching experiences with us.

If you are following his series, you will be excited to learn that the next book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School, will be released on November 3, 2015. This book is particularly exciting because it will go on sale on the same day in 90 countries around the world, which has never been done by any book before!

Kinney shared one of his geocaching experiences with us, in his own words.

jeff kinney
Geocacher and author, Jeff Kinney poses with Greg Heffley from his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

By Jeff Kinney

When I first learned about geocaching a few years back, I was thoroughly confused. People have stored little treasures in hiding places all around me? It seemed like an odd pastime to me. But mysterious and exciting at the same time.

I was looking for something fun (and cheap) to do with my two sons. And so I downloaded the Geocaching app. I was ready to head off into the wilderness some miles away, armed with a walking stick and an iPhone, braving ticks and scrambling over felled trees. But as a swarm of blue dots filled the map on my screen, I was surprised (alarmed?) to find that there was a hidden treasure not 200 yards from the back of my house.

Now this was exciting. I made sure my kids had adequate footwear and we headed out, stepping from the verdant grass of our backyard into actual raw nature. There was some scrambling and some hopping over creeks formed by snow melt runoff. There was some negotiating of brambles. There may have even been some burs. I’ll admit, I’m not exactly the outdoor type, so the thrill of forging my way through the wild… with two of my progeny in tow… had the feeling of real danger.

Eventually, we reached a clearing where power lines cut through the woods (OK, so maybe it wasn’t raw nature). By now, we were getting close. The pulsing blue dot was nearby, but where could the hiding spot be? These were early days of GPS pinpointing, and the dot hopped madly around the screen. It seemed that our quarry was on the move, taunting us.

I was waiting for the dot to stop. Then we’d creep up on it, look down, and find the treasure at our feet.

My kids must’ve detected the confusion on my face. This was a strange ordeal for them to begin with, so the sight of me spinning in place and shaking my iPhone violently didn’t give them a feeling of confidence.

But then I realized I needed to start thinking like the first person who had decided that this was the place to hide a cache. I gave up on the teleporting dot on my phone and started using my eyes.

My eyes fell to a fallen tree. It was all starting to come together. But where was the cache? Under the tree? Oh no! Did someone place a cache in this spot and a tree fell on it? This was going to be very hard to explain to my sons.

By then, my eldest son had climbed over the tree to investigate it from a different angle. And that’s when he found it. A plastic box, hidden in a hole in the log.

A real eureka moment. Inside the box was a giant pencil. A decent treasure for the effort put in. We added our names to the log, proud members of a long list of explorers who had come to the same spot, but from different starting places.

Neither of my kids saw me palm a baseball I had brought from home and slip it into the box before putting it back in the fallen tree. I didn’t need the tears.

A good bite-sized adventure and one I’ve repeated in locales further from home.

I never did teach them how to throw a baseball.

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The 3 Things to Avoid While Geocaching with Kids

geocaching with kids
Courtesy: Podcacher.com

by Sonny and Sandy from PodCacher.com

Geocaching with kids can be an amazing experience…

They love the exploration, discovery, mystery, treasure and outdoor aspects of this fun hobby. As you plan your geocaching outing with kids, you’re probably thinking of the obvious things to take along like plenty of water, lots of snacks, extra changes of clothes, a first aid kit, etc. You are definitely a well-prepared geocacher.

Now, before you head out, here are 3 things to AVOID while geocaching with kids.

geocaching with kids 1
Courtesy: Podcacher.com

1. Rushing

Kids love to take their time and explore. They aren’t in a hurry to get from point A to point B, especially when there is a lot to see, touch and experience between the points. We could learn a lot from them! Let the kids take the lead, and see what you can find to savor as you walk to the next geocache. Bring along a bag or bucket to gather nature “treasures” to take home. Take the time to jump from rock to rock (and don’t fall in the make-believe lava!). Don’t try to squeeze in too many caches. Take your cue from the kids regarding when it’s time to call it a day.

2. Micros

Some kids might love finding altoids tins under lamp-skirts or on guard rails, but they are in the minority. Kids love toys and swag. The smallest trinket can be the greatest treasure in the eyes of a young child. Don’t deprive them of the fun of swag by only going for the tiny containers. It may be a little more work to find an area to cache in that has larger containers, but if you’re going on an outing with kids, it’s definitely worth the extra effort. Be sure to encourage the kids to bring swag along to trade. You can all stop at the dollar store before heading out to geocache, or they can raid their toy bins at home. Take the time to teach them about “trading even or trading up”. It’s a great lesson to learn at a young age.

3. Controlling

Resist the urge to orchestrate every aspect of the experience for your kids. Hand over the GPS, or your smartphone (with a sturdy protective case) and let them learn from trial and error. Don’t be the one to find every geocache first. Give younger kids a “nudge” in the right direction so they can enjoy the fun of “finding” the geocache. Let go of your expectations of how the day “should” go, and just enjoy what happens. The kids might be excited to find even more geocaches than you expected OR they could be all done after just a couple. Be okay with heading to a playground to give everyone a break.

Help out new geocachers, share you advice for geocaching with kids in the comments below! 

geocaching with kids 2
Courtesy: Podcacher.com

 

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It was a Dark and Stormy Night… for Reading about Geocaching

Geobook
Special thanks to Julie Henning (CalORie) for the perfect lead in image for this post.

We here at Geocaching HQ love to hang out with each other during work, while throwing a few back at a local happy hour, and of course while geocaching together on the weekends. So when one of our lackeys suggested starting a book club, we got pretty excited and wondered about geocaching-themed books that may be out in the world. Turns out that there’s a LOT. There’s even a thread in our forums about it. Here are some of our top picks for geocaching books out in the world:

Caching In: A Geocaching Love Story by Tracy Krimmer
“Can a compass lead you to love?”

Ahh, romance and Tupperware in the woods. In Tracy Krimmer’s Caching In: A Geocaching Love Story, we meet broken-hearted Ally Couper who’s, “…had enough with her ridiculous life. Her job at the bank is going nowhere, and her love life might as well be non-existent. Determined to try something new, Ally becomes absorbed in the world of geocaching. The high-tech driven scavenger hunt introduces her to Seth, and she realizes the game isn’t the only thrilling part. Ally’s bad luck may finally be changing, until the past threatens to halt her future with Seth. Can they find happiness together, or is love the one cache Ally can’t find?” I hope this doesn’t have any DNFs!

Romance & caching seem to go hand in hand, but apparently not as much as mysteries & ammo cans. Check out these “whodunits”:

Cache a Predator is a geocaching thriller about a father’s love, justice, and the unhinged game of hide-the-cache .
“Cache a Predator is a geocaching thriller about a father’s love, justice, and the unhinged game of hide-the-cache.”

Cache a Predator: A Geocaching Mystery by Michelle Weidenbenner is a Gold Medal Winner in the 2014 Readers’ International Awards and gets high review marks from online book seller sites. “M. Weidenbenner plants the emotion of one vigilante’s mission into the cache boxes of a gripping tale that will leave readers locking their doors…” Plus, someone is planting body parts in geocaching sites. I wouldn’t want to be FTF that geocache!

"While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton..."
“While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton…”

The synopsis of Cached Out: A Cliff Knowles Mystery by Russell Atkinson already has me on the edge of my seat. “Newly retired from the FBI and alone after the tragic death of his wife, Cliff Knowles takes up geocaching. While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton and reports it to the sheriff’s office. Then a second body is found – a fresh corpse this time – right after Cliff found another geocache nearby. When it turns out the first remains are those of a fugitive he was supposed to arrest years earlier, he becomes a suspect in a multiple homicide investigation. He has no choice but to use his sleuthing skills to identify the mysterious cache owner, known only as Enigmal, and free himself from suspicion.”

But what about the kids? Oh the little ones certainly have a lot to choose from, too:

“Congratulations!” the note says. “You’ve found it!”

As a kid I loved the Boxcar Children series and the adventures of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden. In The Box That Watch Found (The Boxcar Children Mysteries #113) by Gertrude Chandler Warner, their dog Watch discovers a mysterious box that turns out to be, you guessed it, a geocache! But just as the Alden kids start to embrace their new found hobby, they find that several geocaches in the area are disappearing. This book is a great way to introduce kids 7-10 to the world of geocaching or enhance their already established hobby.

"...Using his GPS, he uncovers the geocache-a small metal box-hidden deep in the woods..."
“…Using his GPS, he uncovers the geocache-a small metal box-hidden deep in the woods…”

Young teenagers might actually consider taking a break from texting and putting their smartphones GPS to use after reading Hide & Seek by Katy Grant. This 240 page chapter book follows 14-year-old Chase who, “…finally gets a chance to go on his first solo geocaching adventure. Using his GPS, he uncovers the geocache-a small metal box-hidden deep in the woods in some undergrowth. Inside, with a few plastic army men and a log book, is a troubling message for help in a child’s handwriting.” This one gets high points from both readers and educators in online reviews. 

Our Co-Founder Bryan and his family are on the cover of this good read.
Our Co-Founder Bryan and his family are on the cover of this good read.

Is this a good place to plug The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching: Third Edition by The Editors and Staff of Geocaching.com? No? Alrighty then, moving on… 😉

A geocaching novel in a geocache! Geogirl by Kelly Rysten can be found on Kindle

Finally, you clever cachers really have thought of everything, haven’t you? Including a book club themed geocache! If you ever find yourself in Ridgecrest, California and need a new read, hop on over to Paperback Book Cache GC1ADKF. The Ridgecrest California Geocachers Club says that this 2d/2t geocache is and easy to find, and bring a book if you want to take a book. One log said, “I took two books, one by Gordon R. Dickson that I haven’t even heard of, and one in the Honor Harrington series by Weber. Left two of Rysten’s books, signed by the author. Enjoy!”

So how about you? Read any good (Geocaching) books lately? Tell us in the comments below!

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Give a World of Adventure

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MailerImage_11172014_Activity_Kit_vFINAL_blog

Give a World of Adventure in a Geocache Container

The holidays are approaching and with the Geocaching Action and Discovery kit, you can inspire the spirit of adventure in kids. The Explorer’s Guide to Geocaching Activity Book—exclusive to the kit—guides them through the adventure of geocaching with fun characters, over a dozen activities and more. They’ll have everything they need to find their first few geocaches* as well as hide one of their own.

Give this kit and unlock millions of adventures around the world.

geocaching aad kit 1

geocaching aad kit 4

geocaching aad kit 2

Recommended for ages 8 – 12

The Geocaching Action and Discovery Kit includes:

  • The Explorer’s Guide to Geocaching Activity Book
  • Clear Ammo Can Container
  • Geocaching Logo Cinch Bag
  • Rock Geocache Container
  • Micro Geocache Container
  • Nano Geocache Container
  • Log Pencil
  • Small Logbook
  • Wooden Nickel
  • Geocaching Logo Patch
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*Download of a free iPhone, Android or Windows Phone app required for outdoor geocaching.

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