Thursday, 27 September 2012

Geocaching with P6/7s

This term the class found out that their 'travel bug' which had started it's journey less than a mile down the road, in their own geocache had managed to travel across the Atlantic and is currently 'In the hands of afamilywiththreeboys' near Chicago.

Our Scotland trackable
Confused? Excited? Yes, those are two words to describe how my class felt when we first discussed the idea of a geocache back at the beginning of 2012. Here is an account of how our geocaching adventures started and ended and were resurrected.

our cache complete with treasure
Before I continue, I suppose I should really explain the whole idea behind geocaching to anyone who hasn't yet experienced it. A geocache is a small container or 'cache' that is hidden anywhere in the world. These caches can be as small as the dust cap on your car tyre or as big as an ice-cream tub and many sizes in between. Some contain treasure and some simply contain a rolled up sliver of paper with some dates and initials. In essence, geocaching is simply a treasure hunt on a global scale.

Using a web-based database of hundreds of thousands of caches around the world, the user employs their map skills or, more commonly their GPS device to find the location of a cache. They then use clues to narrow the location down from several metres to a specific location. Once found, the log is signed and dated and if there is treasure then the user can take from the cache as long as something of equal or greater value is left in it's place.

Often, amongst the treasures are 'trackables' which are special items with a trackable serial number. These are designed to be moved from cache to cache and often travel between countries.

We decided that we should plant our own geocache and so set about using map work and our local knowledge to pick a sensible place to hide it. The rules state that the cache cannot be buried underground but can be hidden in holes, bushes or sometimes even in plain sight. We had to also make sure that there would be no environmental damage through the hiding of the cache or by the geocachers who would be looking for it.

With all that in mind we decided upon the local community woodland. This was an area that the children had already been involved with the previous year with a couple of days of tree planting. So we decided to walk to the woodland and seek out suitable hiding spots. Each child sketched where they thought it should be hidden. Then each child jotted down directions to help people to find the location. Once back at school we decided upon a final hiding place and I went back to the site after school to log the exact GPS coordinates on my phone.

Since most geocaches are hidden in areas of geographical or historical interest, this provided an opportunity for some writing in the form of a description of the local area based on children's own knowledge and further research about the development of the woodland. Further writing took the form of an instructional text explaining the concept of geocaching and how to hide a geocache. The children were very engaged in such relevant pieces.

The next task was to find a tub suitable and provide some initial 'treasure'. Some children brought in some small items like rubbers, keyrings etc. I supplied a Scotland travel bug. Since our topic was Europe, we decided that we would like our Scotland travel bug to travel as far round Europe as possible. We packed all our items in our waterproof tub and set off, back to the woodland to hide it.

After a little nudge in the right direction from the website help page, I logged the cache site and awaited it's approval. A few days later it was live and the children knew that they had a special secret treasure cache that only people in the know would be able to find. We checked the website every once in a while to read logs from others that had found it (including a supply teacher working at Portlethen Primary) and we checked to see where our travel bug had travelled to.

So, almost a year on and our travel bug has travelled 5124miles. If you would like to find out more about Geocaching then visit Our geocache is called A Fishermoss Find and our travel bug is called Scotland Flag Tag.

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