Dozens of DEN members were in search of a stash! It was the First Annual West Coast DEN Dash for the Cache — as in geocache — and they learned and laughed and had quite a bash!
Okay, enough with the rhyming! Simply put, geocaching is so much fun! In case you have never heard of it, it is kind of like treasure hunting with GPS units. I think a t-shirt I’ve seen says it best… Geocaching: Using multi-billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods! And that is exactly what we did. Dedicated DEN members from southern California drove for many hours to join us at the La Quinta Inn in Ripon where our instructor, Geocaching Master Burt Lo, walked us through the ins and outs of geocaching.
We were given our mission, assured that with teamwork, it wouldn’t be impossible. We had our requisite dose of caffeine and headed for the parking lot for some hands-on training. Be advised, if you do decide to take up geocaching, the people that HIDE these caches are very, very sneaky! They have even been known to hide their caches in fake sprinkler heads and electrical boxes.
I know what I’ll be requesting from Santa this year! With handheld GPS units costing anywhere from $80 to $$$, if I save up for a while, geocaching can be fun for the whole family. We had children as young as five years old participating in this. If they could understand the concept of "You’re getting warmer, warmer… hot!" then they could geocache with the family without difficulty. Our high school aged kids had fun too! I like that it gets the family out of the house, hiking in the great outdoors, all focused on a common goal.
After our parking lot practice, we headed to Caswell State Park where our wilderness adventure began. We ate a lot and laughed a lot and searched high and low for several hidden caches.
The way I see it, there are basically three schools of thought on the subject of geocaching in the classroom. I’m aware that this is an oversimplification, but here goes: 1) If kids love it and it’s cool, I’ll make my standards fit it. 2) I need to be convinced that the use of GPS units has its merits as an educational tool. And finally, 3) Simply put, "Will it raise test scores?"
For what it’s worth, I do have an opinion. I think geocaching is cool, kids love it and I could easily integrate it as a tool toward teaching my standards. I think the teaching of the use of the GPS unit and/or the activity of geocaching itself is educationally limited beyond the obvious latitude/longitude lessons. BUT when used as a tool, it engages kids in the learning of other subjects and it is only limited by the creativity of the teacher. Will it raise test scores? Yes. (That’s a bold statement, I know.) Test scores go up when students learn and know the curriculum, right? Students of all ages and abilities retain information more readily when they are actively participating in their learning. By being engaged in learning, retaining the information, and raising those test scores, everyone will be happy! I think that this may be one step toward making classroom learning fun again. What are your thoughts on the subject?