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Using GPS's and Geocaching in the Classroom

Page history last edited by Roxann Nys 13 years ago Saved with comment

Geocaching is a sport that's been around since 2000 and it's been quickly catching on in many classrooms around the country. Geocaching.com is a great place to begin to learn about the sport and to find caches in your neighborhood. They have a whole bunch of very helpful videos that can help you learn how to use the site and learn more about the sport. This website contains links to a variety of resources that will help you learn more about integrating GPS's into your curriculum.

Here's a short YouTube video created by the Geocaching.com folks that explains geocaching:

Whether you are an active player or have just heard about geocaching, if you want to know more about the history of the sport and get some very helpful tips, you’ll want to get your hands on this great video program, the "Complete Guide to Geocaching" You can now download this video in either .wmv or .mpg4 (Quicktime) for just $3.95.  The acting is hilarious, but the information is serious.

Here's a trailer:

Fliqz has shut down their service. To access this video, email support with this video id: 6f2e856925834f1ca28bf88c5a5344f8


Here are some photos of various types of cache containers and hiding places:

Can you spot the geocache?        Here it is revealed. Hint: When looking for geocaches in the woods, look for arrangements of twigs, rocks, etc. that aren't natural. Mother Nature will never lay a bunch of sticks in a straight row as you see here.


   Tupperware containers are often used for caches, but they are not entirely impervious to rain. You will want to put your log book and any other paper items into plastic bags. This helps, but doesn't always keep all moisture out. If you do use a Tupperware or other plastic container, be sure to check your cache after rains to be sure it's OK.

Can you pick out the cache here?                              This is what it looked like-camouflage duct tape over a plastic container.


This one was tricky...you had to lift up the base on the light pole to get at the tin container.


   Caches that are VERY small are called "micro" caches. This was a travel-sized pill container covered in camo-tape and hidden in a crack in a rock. A hard find, but we did!


A geocoin. This one doesn't have a                     Contents of one geocache. Lots of tradeable items. (Not usually of any real value.)       tracking number on it.                                         Remember-if you take something, leave something!


A common cache holder--an ammunition can                  Another cache container, not camouflaged.                                                    clearly marked as a cache.

A clever micro cache holder...this one would be a challenge in an urban area.


Typical hiding place for a cache-a hollow tree log.


A log entry made by a geocacher once the cache                             Here's a "creepy" geocache container!                                                was found.

Some helpful resources for using Geocaching in educational settings

Here's a nice list of vocabulary related to geocaching

A helpful video showing how one educator is using geocaching in the classroom:

For lots of information on how to use a GPS, check out the GPS Education Resource

A nice list of ways to use geocaching in the classroom can be found in this pdf.  

This web site, GeocachingKids.com is designed to help children and parents learn more about the exciting sport of geocaching. After spending a few minutes here, you will be ready to hunt for your first geocache. You'll also learn a bit about the Global Positioning System, which is the technology behind the activity.

Groundspeak forums has a forum for specifically for GPS in Environmental Education You’ll need to subscribe to post, but you can read any posts without doing so. Discussions range from how to purchase to how geocaching is used to teach a variety of subjects.

USGS-Science for a Changing World is the website of a professional geographer who shares his thoughts on how to work with GPS as an excellent tool applicable to many disciplines, including mathematics, geography, earth science, environmental studies, and more. 

US Geological Survey links to a variety of educational resources.

Here's a blog with some excellent ideas and info about GPS & Geocaching in Education created by Clint Stephens, a tech trainer from Cedar City, UT.

Kathy Schrock, in her digital gadgets guide for educators has a very useful list of links related to GPS and Geocaching:

  • Geocaching with Kids

    ...a site explaining the use of a GPS device to locate geocaches and help on how your class can create their own

  • GPS Activities and Lesson Plans

    ...a list of sites and successful practices for GPS use in support of the curriculum

  • GPS Lesson Plans

    ...links to GPS lesson plans for K-12 and to other supporting resources, too


Geocaher University is a fun blog written by geoaching fanatic that features lots of great info, including a Geocaching 101 for beginners, Geocaching 201-a guide to hiding a cache, some nifty downloads and printables (like an easy to make logbook and cache notes) as well as some good ideas on creating mystery and puzzle caches. I particularly liked the one about creating a "podcache" where you include an mp3 file as part of the cache (geocachers go online to podcache.com to download the mp3 before starting out (podcacher is a podcast about geocaching), and then get a sightseeing tour and/or more clues by listening the the mp3. A GREAT student project--perhaps highlighting facts about the school or special points of interest in a community. Here's an example of one "podcache" (in San Diego) on geocaching.com Oh, and there's a store on the site where you can buy more geocaching "stuff!"


Podcacher.com "Sonny and Sandy, a husband and wife geocaching team in Southern California have created a podcast about geocaching. Podcasting is a way to listen to “radio-like” programs on an MP3 player. PodCacher began in July 2005 and has over 250 shows and counting!

From the beginning, we wanted to deliver high quality, family-friendly shows that would inform, inspire and entertain! We thought a podcast would be a good fit. Geocachers are adventurous, use computers, and are very mobile; also a good description for podcasters! So we designed a program that delivers news, tips and tricks, tools of the trade, caching stories, interviews, live audio events, and more!

We have also recorded and released what we believe was the world’s first PodCache. A PodCache is a hidden cache that you find by listening to a series of audio clues in an MP3 file. Cache seekers load the sound file onto a portable player, listen to directions and follow a route that the original hiders took to place the cache. It’s a fun twist on the geocaching game, and several of our listeners have created PodCaches in their own local areas.

At PodCacher you will find:

  • Shownotes to our audio PodCasts
  • A written journal of our geocaching experiences, musings, rants, raves and opinions
  • Links to really cool and helpful stuff
  • Always Family Friendly!

PodCache (pod-kash) 
n. 1. A store of goods or valuables concealed in a hiding place designed to be found by other “podcachers”.
    2. A game in which the players attempt to find hidden articles by means of a series of audio clues.

v. 1. A geeky techy fun new way to hide things (treasure stashes) for others to find. Combining the aspects of Podcasting and Geocaching.



Earthcaching is another, much more environmentally educational, form of "treasure" hunting. Instead of looking for boxes with trinkets, you'll be looking for specific places. You'll find, learn about and be able to appreciate the marvelous treasures of goo old Mother Earth. Although you can find earth caches listed on geocaching.com, the folks there created EarthCache.org to make it easier to find them. The resource, "Earthcaching:  An Educators' Guide" is a comprehensive, free downloadable guide that will tell you everything you want to know about earthcache.

Geotagging your Photos

When you view Google Earth, you can see many photos that folks have uploaded to the software.  Here's a nice, very short intro to Google Earth that you may find helpful:


Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, accuracy data, and place names.


My Delicious account contains a variety of links to resources that will help you understand the why and how to of geotagging photos. The CommunityWalk site is particularly easy to use for beginners.


Panoramio another site where you can geotag photos. "Panoramio is different from other photo sharing sites because the photos illustrate places. As you browse Panoramio, notice that there aren't many photos of friends and family posing in front of places, or photos of interesting surfaces--Panoramio's all about seeing the world. Every Panoramio photo is a candidate for transfer to the Google Earth Panoramio layer. You'll notice a line under each photo, telling you whether it's been reviewed or selected for Google Earth. Once a month, we transfer the selected photos."


Photo sites like Flickr now make it very easy to geotag your photos without the use of a GPS. Flickr has a great how to video explaining how to do this.


Panoramia is another site used by many to upload pics.



Google's Picasa, free, downloadable software, also includes options for geotagging photos using Google Earth (also free software.)  As of May 2010, that feature for Google Earth was not available for the Mac version of Picasa. Here are directions for geotagging photos using Picasa.

Here's a link to one of the maps I created using Picasa:

laughing whitefish falls, MI


If you want to use the "tracks" feature on your GPS, you can easily create and share a trail using a Web2.0 tool called EveryTrail.com  Any GPS device that records tracks will work with EveryTrail. Just record a trip with your GPS device, and save the file to your computer to upload. Take pictures along the way with any camera or phone, and you can add those to your map too. If you don't have a GPS device,  Just use your mobile phone! EveryTrail is available via app stores for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile smartphones.

Just install the EveryTrail app (it’s free!) and it’ll use your phone’s GPS to track your trip route. Take pictures with your phone’s camera and they’ll automatically be plotted on your trail.


Doing More with Google Earth

Bring what your students are reading alive with Google Lit Trips


Here's a very short intro to downloading Google Lit Trips for you and your students:



And here's another good introductory video by a teacher who's using them with her literature students


Part 2 is also available on YouTube.








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