Are You Geocaching With Your Kids?

It has been a really interesting week in Radical Nation, y’all.  You see, Dr. Griz — a Geocaching Travel Bug that my class set free EIGHT YEARS ago made his way back to Salem Middle School after a 34 THOUSAND MILE journey through 90 caches in 4 different countries.

Here he is:

If you’re like MOST people, you’re probably wondering what Geocaching is, right?  

Geocaching — as defined by the experts at Geocaching.com — is “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

Think about that for a minute:  How much fun does a “real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game” sound to you?  More importantly, how much fun would a “real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game” sound to your students?

Whether you’ve ever gone looking for them or not, there are literally DOZENS of geocaches of all different shapes and sizes hidden in and around your town right now.  Need proof?  Type your zip code into the search box on this webpage and see what comes up.  You’ll be blown away.  I promise.  And all you need in order to find them is a Smartphone with the Geocaching App installed, a bit of free time, and a willingness to go for a walk.

Travel Bugs like Dr. Griz are called Trackables — and they are left in caches by people like you and me who want to see just how far they will go. Geocachers who find Travel Bugs pick them up, move them around from cache to cache and record their current location on the Travel Bug’s home page at the Geocaching website.  Want to see what that looks like?  Check out Dr. Griz’s homepage here.

That’s where Trackables become REALLY COOL.  Not only can you see a map of everywhere that a Travel Bug has been — here’s where Dr. Griz has spent the last 8 years — the geocachers who move Travel Bugs around often take pictures and leave notes for the owners that are a ton of fun to read.

Dr. Griz was originally taken to New Zealand with a bunch of other Travel Bugs by the father of one of my students who is WAY into geocaching.  All of the bugs were left in the same cache with directions attached that explained to geocachers that the goal for each bug was to make it home to Raleigh, North Carolina.  Participants — including my class — watched our bug’s progress through the Geocaching website and/or through a separate site set up by the father of my student.

After several months, I lost track of Dr. Griz — until this week when he was mailed back to me by a geocacher who found him in Georgia, took him to Turk and Caicos, and then tracked me down online.

#amazingraceindeed

The entire experience has left me convinced that Geocaching needs to play a bigger role in the work that I do with students in our school. Here are three reasons why:

Our kids need to spend more time outside:  It is all too easy to get trapped behind screens in today’s world, isn’t it?  Heck, there are days — even weeks — where I do NOTHING outside.  And the same goes for our kids.  In many cases, they are losing touch with the natural world — and that could have alarming consequences , both for their own well-being and for the future stewardship of our planet.

And even if you don’t buy into the “we need to love nature” argument, Geocaching should play a larger role in the lives of today’s kids because it’s a physical activity — and most of our kids could DEFINITELY use a little more physical activity in their lives.

Our kids need to see that embracing digital tools doesn’t mean abandoning other people: People like to argue that digital spaces are turning us all into selfish loners who like to ignore one another — and in many cases, that’s true.  Digital tools CAN make life more isolated and lonely and impersonal.  Need proof?  Send someone a Hallmark eCard for their next birthday and see how thrilled they will be.

#sheesh

But digital tools make pretty remarkable collective efforts possible, too.  Swim in the fact that DOZENS of complete strangers moved Dr. Griz TENS OF THOUSANDS of miles around the world to get him home for a bunch of middle schoolers that they’d never met.  Poke through the comments and pictures that they left on his log page and TELL ME that folks who embrace digital tools are selfish, impersonal loners.

That’s an important lesson, isn’t it?  Don’t our kids need to realize that anything is possible from behind a screen — INCLUDING random acts of kindness between strangers that bring us together rather than push us apart?

Our kids need to learn about the geography of the world: Ask Lauren Katlin — Ms. South Carolina 2007 — and she’ll tell you that “most US Americans” don’t know where “the Iraq” is because they don’t have maps.  Most kids will tell you, however, that they don’t know where “the Iraq” is because learning geography in traditional classrooms can be pretty darn boring.  Memorizing maps is a lot like memorizing spelling words, y’all — when it’s done in isolation, learning ain’t ever going to happen.

But what if every class in YOUR school set a Travel Bug free on the first day of kindergarten and  then tracked its travels for the next twelve years?  What if every kid had a map in their binders — or on their iPads or in their digital textbooks — where they recorded each stop on their Travel Bug’s journeys?  What if the world maps hanging in our hallways had the current locations of every class’s Travel Bug marked, complete with details about what life is like in that part of the world for kids to explore?

Isn’t it possible that kids would take geography a little more seriously if they were looking at the world through the eyes of a traveling trinket that they were invested in?

#myguessisyes

Any of this make sense to you?  More importantly, any middle school teachers interested enough in Geocaching to give it a whirl?  If so, want to do a bit of collaborating with me? 

#lemmeknow

_________________________

Related Radical Reads:

Turning the Vegetables You Want to Serve into the Vegetables Kids Want to Eat

Making Good Technology Choices

Hiding the Aspirin in the Applesauce

  • Curt Rees

    Yay!

    Radical Bill – 

    While I’m not geocaching with my students (yet), I started it with my own kids (ages 7 and 11) last summer.  It has been a tremendous amount of fun.  We love the techy side of the hunting using the iPhone app, enjoy the physical side of the search, and then the thrill of figuring out the clues to find the cache.  It’s especially great when we are on the road.  It makes rest area stops a lot more fun.  

    We’ll have to start a Travel Bug and see where it ends up.  Thanks for that idea.  

    Regards,

    Curt

  • SandyMerz

    Roosevelt and Geocaching

    Geocaching is a hoot, and congratulations on your travel bug finding its way back.  The quote from Miss South Carolina caught my eye because I remembered reading Roosevelt’s “Map Speech”  a fireside chat in which he asks listeners to get out a world map and then proceeds to discuss all that is happening in the world.  I’ve always thought it would be great to have a class read it with a map and follow along. 

     

     

  • Bradley Tiegs

    Geocaching Lesson

    I agree so much with this article. I won a contest with A&E networks last year w/ simple geocaching lesson. Love to see more try Geocaching.

  • Jonathan

    Geocaching in the special needs classroom

    Last year I introduced geocaching to my alternative programs in the special needs school where I was teaching. To begin with I thought it was just an exciting reward for good behaviour, but I quickly found that it was an engaging way to cover a whole range of topics; both academically and socially.

    I dedicated one day a week to geocaching pulling on each of the regular subjects as i needed. Gradually introducing new skills and levels of thinking as we went; from finding a basic traditional geocache to creating some very inventive ones of our own.

    The biggest learning experience for many students was realising just how big the world (looking a trackables) is and how this thing they were doing at school was a part of something so much bigger.

    Beyond that many of them now do it as a hobby with their families (which there are a limited amount of activities that they can do together for many reasons).

    I highly recommend any teacher to give geocaching a go for a fantastic way to engage students of all ages and capabilities.

  • janeborselli

    Curious About Geocaching

    #lemmeknow

    Geocaching is intriguing and sounds like something my middle schooler would love, but I  am still trying to wrap my head around the whole concept. It’s certainty seems to be a great way to use present technology in a different way to educate and develop higher level thinking skills.  For that reason I would love to use it in my classroom (I’m a computer teacher) or with my social studies/science colleagues.  However, if one needs to venture outdoors with classes to find these geocaches and leave your district that could be tricky.  I’m probably missing something, but I would love to learn more.  I’m always looking to use technology in meaningful ways with my students.

    I may try it this weekend with my son who could always use to get away from the computer and outside.  Thank you for your post on this great educational and fun activity.  I would definitely collaborate with you on a geocaching project.

  • janeborselli

    Curious About Geocaching

    #lemmeknow

    Geocaching is intriguing and sounds like something my middle schooler would love, but I  am still trying to wrap my head around the whole concept. It’s certainty seems to be a great way to use present technology in a different way to educate and develop higher level thinking skills.  For that reason I would love to use it in my classroom (I’m a computer teacher) or with my social studies/science colleagues.  However, if one needs to venture outdoors with classes to find these geocaches and leave your district that could be tricky.  I’m probably missing something, but I would love to learn more.  I’m always looking to use technology in meaningful ways with my students.

    I may try it this weekend with my son who could always use to get away from the computer and outside.  Thank you for your post on this great educational and fun activity.  I would definitely collaborate with you on a geocaching project.

  • janeborselli

    A Question about Geocaching

    Bill,

    I read a little of Dr. Griz’s homepage and saw that some school’s have geocaching clubs.   It sounds like geocaching in a club setting may be easier to do than in a classroom setting in terms of taking kids off school premises to track caches.  How would that work by the way, if geocaching is done as part of a class.  Do kids volunteer to track down the caches with their parents, or if old enough on their own?

    I was reading about some of the requirements and guidelines on the official geocaching site.  It sounds like people decide on their own suitable containers (caches), is this true?  I had in my mind that the cache’s were this standard container everyone used.  Also, what happens if someone not involved in geocaching finds and removes the cache?

    It would great to hear from you about geocaching.

    Jane  🙂

     

     

     

     

    • billferriter

      Club v. Class

      Hey Jane, 

      First, sorry that it’s been such a long time before I replied here!  Sometimes I get buried in work and spend less time in the comment sections of my posts than I should.

      To answer some of your questions, yes a club would be way easier than a class simply because you could get permission to be off campus easier that way.  I’m thinking about having parents and students meet for one day rallies on the weekends.  If we agree on a location and then cache around the location in a competition-style “find the most caches” event, I think it would be fun.

      For my actual class, the extent of our caching experience will probably be releasing a travel bug and then following its travels online.  

      Does this make sense?

      Bill

  • janeborselli

    Geocaching

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your response.  I think geocaching is starting to make a little more sense to me.  You either release a travel bug, place a cache some where with some object inside it and track it using the geocaching app/site or you try to find travel bugs (caches they contain objects) by using the geocaching app/site and a GPS, is that sort of correct?

    So just to be clear, you would be tracking the travel bug because when people find it they then hide it, correct?  And that’s why they travel all over the world, right?

    Jane