My last post was about geocaching – what it is and some of the fun I’ve had doing it.
A relevant question comes up when educators discuss geocaching: So what does all this have to do with education? How can this be used in (or out of) the classroom?
I’ve tried to come up with good answers to that question, and what’s wonderful, is that in my experience of writing these two blog articles, I learned more, grew more, and am more inspired than I would have been if I hadn’t blogged about this. So, here’s my best ideas at this time. I hope to improve on this list, and refine these ideas. It’s likely that I’ll blog again at that time!
- Send groups of students, in turn, to the 4 corners of the school campus and record the coordinates. Show these coordinates to students either on the GPS unit itself, or on GoogleEarth to the whole class with a projector.
- Send groups of students to coordinates that will put them at certain places on the school campus (library, office, cafeteria, bus stop, etc.) Again, use GoogleEarth with the whole class.
- Send along an iPod, with audio files to play when they are at those certain points. The names of the audio files’ names should be somewhat cryptic, so as not to give away the location (such as the coordinates themselves).
- Make this a kind of virtual cache, (where people aren’t supposed to find an actual hidden container, but they find a plaque of some kind that has information on it. This information is emailed to the hide-er of the cache). The school version of this could be asking about the plaque from the founding of the school, or something about the flag pole
- If this is on a field trip, like one of the California missions, virtual cache waypoints could direct students to certain places around the mission. Many educators have used worksheets with questions that can only be answered as students progress around the location of a field trip. Maybe geocaching techniques could have something to contribute here…
- Finally, my favorite application to this outdoor sport (yes, it’s considered a sport, not just a hobby – when you do some caching that requires some significant hiking, you’ll agree)… Anyway, my favorite application of this involves Scicon – The Clemmie Gil School of Science and Conservation! I’ve blogged about Scicon before (this year and last year). I’m still thinking about how to incorporate this activity with all the hikes and locations up there. Maybe have caches for students to find at places like the hermit’s cabin (at the top of Sky Trail), Eagle Point, etc. Maybe places like some of the spots that teachers take our students, could have coordinates to find would make good caches, too.
Objectives. What would an educational activity in California in 2007 be without objectives?! Actually, it’s a very valid question – What’s the point? The above activities are nifty, interesting, and easy for techies to get excited about, but what about the non-techies, and the unconvinced?
- Math: The concept of the x-y axis is something that comes up in 6th grade math standards, and is much more vital in 7th grade math standards.
- Science: The concept of the x-y axis being analogous to the latitude/longitude is key! Our understanding of world geography, and that we have a place on this planet that is unique, and can be described with numbers is an important idea. The more our world moves in this direction, the more this idea will be crucial to our students functioning in their jobs. GoogleEarth should definitely be used as a tool, as well.
- Language Arts: Especially if students are reading and writing blogs with students in other parts of the world, they could communicate about their location. Understanding that their friends across the globe have different coordinates could really bring the reality of this to life. They’re not just numbers! Someone with whom they’ve communicated is at coordinates much different than ours – wow!
- Social Studies: Finding the coordinates of certain places around the world would be interesting for the same reason as above, but would also help to put these other locations into context. Of course, this is particularly helpful for 6th grade Social Studies standards in California, which is about Ancient Civilizations. As I’ve learned from my friend Tom, Florida’s 6th grade standards are about World Geography, which is an even closer match!
- Others? I’m sure there are many more ideas of how to integrate GPS’s and geocaching into education. If you have any other ideas, please comment on this article to continue the conversation!