Going on a Treasure Hunt: Geo-Caching at Picnic Point

Do technology and nature belong together? After all, isn’t hiking supposed to get us away from machines and technology?

That’s what I always thought. However, after our first geo-cache outing, I believe there is a place for geo-caching in the nature curriculum for kids. It’s just a different kind of nature experience.

Here are the benefits I see of geo-caching.

1. Kids learn how to read a GPS. Even though ours were very simple, Junior models by Apisphere, the kids still had to read the screen. They had to follow the direction arrow and watch as the distance (in feet) grew smaller as they neared the cache. In the process, I do think they learned something about space and the environment. For example, when we started, we were 800 feet from the cache. Therefore, they experienced 800 feet.  They also had to read the numbers, which for the smaller kids, helped with math.

2. They have to slow down. They moved so fast that they walked right past the cache the first time through. When they were within 30 feet of the cache, they had to get off the trail and poke around to find it. This was good.  They had to pay attention or miss the treasure.

3. It’s exciting. Treasure hunts are just plain fun. When we found our cache, the kids were thrilled. We dumped the cache on a cloth and let them each take something. Then they added something for the next person. They really enjoyed this and took home stuff like a key, a ball, rocks, and a necklace. I think they’ll remember this outing for a long time.

Here are the drawbacks that I see:

1. Geo-caching is expensive. The junior models are $70. That isn’t too bad, but to work with kids, you need more than one . We had one unit for every two kids in our group of 11. I’ve heard of groups using one for every 6 kids, but they were older. We are fortunate that Inner City Outings purchased the units and lets us use them.  You also need a computer to find the caches. You have to go to geocaching.com, to locate the caches and get information on them.

2. Planning. With smaller kids (K-5), I think it’s important to scout the trip in advance. Disappointment does nothing to motivate them. As a busy teacher, this is tough to do.  Again, I am fortunate to have a volunteer do this.

3. Yes, looking at the GPS does detract from the surroundings. However, there is still plenty of time to see nature while outside or plan other outings that don’t involve technology.

The bottom line is that geo-caching is an exciting way to get kids outside. It’s fun and gives kids a purpose for hiking. If we want to get kids outside, we need to embrace ideas that excite them. Hopefully, they’ll love being outside so much that they’ll keep it up. Finding the money and time is the key.

Check out geocaching.com to learn more about this sport and the many treasures just waiting to be found.

Get an email subscription (go to home page) and receive my Bubble Activity Guide. It’s full of inexpensive activities to do with kids.

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