Introduction In July 2006, I attended NECC (the National Education Computing Conference) in San Diego, California. I briefly heard of geocaching while I was there, but did not follow up to find out what it was and what implications it could have in education. About four months later, I was surfing the web and decided to search for geocaching. I was immediately intrigued and within a few days I was hooked. I knew that this would be a fantastic way to engage learners, if I could just find a way to incorporate it into my technology lab classroom.
Fast forward to the 2007-08 school year, by which time I had secured a grant allowing me to purchase twenty GPS receivers for use with my students. I had some success with class activities and elective-type clubs at school. But I could see a need in our school community for activities that families could do together. Many of my (private school) students are overbooked with classes and lessons and sports practice, and their parents are also busy. There is a very competitive element to what little bonding takes place between parents and children. Getting good grades and winning awards and sports titles is the way to impress parents in this Silicon Valley achievement-oriented culture.
I saw a need for a more low-key opportunity for children and parents to spend time together, having a common goal toward which to work, in an environment of cooperation over competition, fun over winning. I also feel passionate about getting families outdoors enjoying all that the natural world has to offer, mainly so that both kids and adults will find a passion within themselves for taking care of our planet.
Rationale With the twenty Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS receivers, I already had most of what I needed for the curriculum I sought to create. I would also need instructional materials, a guide for instructors who would use these materials, and a student guide.
Geocaching takes place outdoors, and my class time with these families would be outdoors-only. However, the follow-up part of geocaching (logging one’s finds) and the preparation for future excursions (locating more geocaches to go out and find) requires computer use of the geocaching.com website. So I could include further resources that are computer or web based. I already have a website, created for my Multimedia Web Development class, called Geocaching with Kids in the Bay Area. The site contains and/or links to videos, web resources, and other materials families can use to customize their new hobby and skills to their own particular needs. There are many ways to enjoy geocaching, so each family – and even each family member – can pick and choose those resources that most appeal to them.
* The instructional materials are a PowerPoint presentation, designed to be printed and laminated into a “flip book” for use during the outdoor class time. The electronic version, however, can be accessed from the resource website so that learners can go back and review the materials whenever they want.
* The instructor guide coaches instructors on using the slide show and customizing it for their own needs and geographical area.
* The student guide is a “take-away” booklet that families will use during the class as a sort of workbook and memory jogger, but that also includes information for after the class. It will help them continue to pursue geocaching as a family hobby after the class is finished.
* The assessments are a checklist done during/after the outdoor class, and an online follow-up survey for each participant to fill in from home.