Geocaching is a hobby in which people hide a container (a ‘cache’), post its lat-lon, and then other people try to find it. Common containers are hide-a-keys, prescription bottles, small Tupperware bins, ammunition boxes, or even paint buckets. (My favorite find was a tennis ball that had a slit cut in the side.)
Using a GPS unit, you can navigate to within a few feet of where the container is hidden; once you’re in the geocache zone (GZ ), you have to think like your opponent: If you were hiding something here, where would you hide it? Likely spots are in a hollow tree or stuck magnetically to the backside of a metal pole or fence. Part of the fun of geocaching is coming up with crazy ways to hide objects and thus challenge would-be finders. One ever-present possibility is that the cache has been lost, moved, or removed due to animal activity, erosion, or human error.
Once you have found a cache and opened it up, there is typically a log sheet inside to sign and sometimes objects to take or trade. This reinforces the social nature of the hobby–after all, if you are a hider, you may never see or meet your finders; if you are a finder, you may never see or meet your hiders.
Geocaching for Teaching/Learning?
- Fun! Students are motivated.
- Good practice working with Lat/Lon
- Active learning/Student driven
- Develops spatial awareness
- Uncovering stage can be frustrating
- Locational hazards – bees, mud, poison ivy, etc…
- A scaffolded geocaching activity to apply & extend understanding of lat-lon, geospatial awareness.
- Redefining the Latitude/Longitude Experience with a Scaffolded Geocache Experience – Article describing this activity
What do YOU think? Is the educational return of geocaching “worth it?”
- Geography Basics:
- Latitude & Longitude coordinates
- Prime Meridian and Equator Images
- Great site for finding and converting DMS and DD coordinates
- Relative vs. absolute location (i.e., lat-lon) – Geography Minute Video OR Wikipedia’s entry on Location (geography) for this.