I heard about geocaching a while back from another homeschooler with whom I am somewhat familiar. He mentioned that he and his family were very much into this treasure hunting activity but I wrote it off as it was the middle of winter and sounded like something only very eccentric people did for fun. OK, I admit that I was a little rash in forming this opinion as it was not founded in fact, just a weird vibe that I got from him. Nonetheless, during one of my many bouts of insomnia, I googled the word and found a plethora of information. Yet, I still wasn’t sold. It was still cold out and the thought of scouring various parks and paths for a box of stuff was just not something I wanted to entertain.
And then, I came across a post entitled, Educational Geocaching. It turns out that geocaching is not just for crazy extreme advantageous types. It’s a fun game of hide and seek and treasure hunting that requires a keen eye, the use of GPS, and nothing more than a desire to spend time with family or friends and visit interesting places. As I read through Geocaching.com, I found myself getting excited and wanting to stat right away. I told my husband about it and he was in and The Tornado heard “treasure” and “compass” and was ready to go.
We ventured out today for our first hide-and-seek task. Armed with homemade trail mix, our iPad, and my iPhone we set out on our journey. We decided to tackle a very simple one- well two – for our first time. At first, we (and by “we” and mean “me”)had trouble understand the GPS from the Geocaching.com app ($9.99) that I downloaded to my iPad/iPhone. It’s not like a regular GPS that you use when driving as it doesn’t “tell” you anything. There is just a flashing dot with arrows pointing in the direction that you must go. And while the dot moves as you do, it’s a little tough to make sure that you are going in the right direction. I learned that the best way to use the GPS is to lock the iPad/iPhone display so that it does not rotate automatically because if you don’t you will always head in the right direction.
We allowed The Tornado to use a compass app on my iPhone so that she felt included. She told us wether we were headed North, South, East, or West. We finally let her use finally a compass for real treasure hunting. This cache spot was not too far and while we did have to drive, it was a short one. After parking we headed to the park trail and looked for the “treasure.” This journey, Stumped #2, meant that the item was located in/near a tree stump. But there were a lot of them after Irene. We had to really use our head and eyes.
It turns out that when you are this close to the object it is best to use the Geocaching.com app’s “compass” feature as opposed to the real map. It made it a lot easier and we found it! We signed the log, The Tornado selected a toy pig from the goodies in the box and we left a sheet of temporary tattoos. And since the weather was beautiful and we were in a really nice park, we decided to walk around a bit and Andrew took the opportunity to explain why the raging river water was clean and to show The Tornado what happens when sticks and acorns get caught in the current.
There is nothing better than active learning opportunities. Geocaching will get us out of the house, exploring neighboring areas and traveling to new ones. The Geocaching.com site offers a place to log and keep track of your finds. We are also going to use a map, first of our local area and then of the state, etc., to log where we have been and we will have short lessons on the areas we are heading before we go. Because The Tornado likes to take pictures, we will also bring her camera. There are so many things that we can do!
And what about the second adventure? Well, that one was located near a playground and well, we got distracted…
Are you a Geocacher?