Bridget Belalrdi, DENs Geocaching expert, says that she learned about geocaching from an article she read on an airplane. She thought it would be a great thing for her father because he likes being outdoors, but they both got hooked. The implications educationally for geocaching are excellent. Geocachine is a high tech treasure hunt, and what makes it high tech is a GPS or a GPS-R and your access to the internet and a geocaching site. Garmin and Magellan are the most popular, and the cost runs in a $100-500 range. Bridget recommends that you have a USB cord so you can get the latitude/longitude coordinates. If you have a new iPhone, it comes with GPS and makes geocaching easy. If your GPS you use for your car has a pedestrian setting, you might be able to use it to geocache.
GPS works by finding 3 satellites that lock in, change color, and determine your exact position. So, once you are moving toward your cache, what are you looking for? A variety of things in many sizes and shapes. Rule of thumb: if you take something, you must leave something of equal value. There are a variety of geocaching containers, including waterproof and magnetized containers. The most evil of all the caches are nanocaches; they are small and usually magnetized, and about the size of a quarter. Each cache has a log that you have to sign, once you find it. One of the benefits of geocaching: you go places that you might not otherwise visit. There’s a lot of suspense and a great thrill when you find the object.
How do you find a cache? Build an account on www.geocaching.com; it’s a site on all continents. Create an avatar and a name that you will use to login to your geocaching account, as well as how you sign your cache when you locate it. Begin with “hide and seek cache” and then search by whichever option suits you best. Bridget often searches by zip code because it narrows in on a specific place and gives you a vision for where you are. There are difficulty levels for ability to find and access of terrain, so you can pick your comfort level as a beginner. If you have a USB cord, you can select “send to GPS” which Bridget does, but you can also print the page. Caches can come in two parts; you may have to answer a set of questions before you get a new set of coordinates. Geocaching.com comes with a set of hints, and Bridget says that’s a great feature when you are working with students, but not all hints are created equal. The site also details how many people found the cache, or not, and how many finders leave notes or photos to the owner.
On the DEN Geocaching Day, Bridget says the geocaching site will have additional information for the DEN event. Sometimes owners of the cache will have you email them before they will give you credit for finding the cache. Other owners simply expect that you will log in to the website and record your find. Bridget has found over 100 caches but knows people who have found over a thousand. Her bottom line: use your “geosense” to find the cache. If you take something, leave something, and be sure to put the cache back exactly how you found it so the next person has the same experience.
Image via Wikipedia
Travel bugs are something you can find in a cache. It’s a tag with a number; you take the travel bug home, login to the geocaching site, and find out why the bug was there. Often you have something to do, like take it to the beach and take a photo, or sometimes they are just for advertising. Travel bugs often go across the world, and you can track the bug’s travels.
Briget has a travel bug “travelling” in her fourth grade class. The students follow the bug and record it in Google Earth. The calculate the distance the bug has traveled, and examine latitude and longitude points as well. For the DEN Geocaching day, we will be able to track the DEN blogs as they travel the world. The Australia trip that teachers and students are piloting will be geocaching as they travel. Geocoins are another item you can find; you should read about the coin to see why it is traveling. Geocoins are collectable and tradable, and usually more valuable than bugs.
Some lingo to learn: muggles = not geocachers; you have to be careful around them and be stealthy. When muggles ask Bridget what she’s doing, she often says she lost her earring and is looking for it. TFTC: thanks for the cache. TFTF: thanks for the find. TNLN: Took nothing left nothing.
Going out for the first time: take a bag that includes:
-First Aid Kit
Letterboxing is a hybrid, similar to geocaching, and Bridget used this activity to introduce students to geocaching. They used stamps and a book, and hid 15 caches in boxes. When the students found the cache, they got their book stamped. The next activity was for the students to create a cache and hide it. The students had a research component, did the writing, and then made a website with coordinates for the fifth graders to find them.
Recommended resource: Educaching: GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers. Podcachers is a fun site that is a family of geocachers who podcast their searches. Check Bridget’s slideshare for additional resources. One of the two remaining webinars will be archived. Special thanks to Bridget for an excellent webinar. Lance credits Bridget for creating this DEN end-of-year celebration. If anyone is interested in hosting a geocaching event on May 30, please email Lance for the support system DEN will put in place to help you host a super geocaching day. Lunch included!