Geocaching is like a giant game of treasure hunting for adults and kids alike, which makes this a great activity to incorporate into your homeschooling. What makes geocaching great for homeschooling is the variety of ways you can use it for teaching. It can be used to help with teaching latitude and longitude, something do while going out to observe nature, it can encourage imagination and problem solving skills. This article will provide an overview of what geocaching is, some fun homeschooling activities to do with geocaching and some local geocaching ideas for people in the Omaha area.
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is the practice of finding items at various locations around the world by using the GPS coordinates provided by the person who placed the item. The items are located in small containers called a cache. A cache is a small container of varying sizes from a large 2 foot square container, to as little as a micro container that a small rolled up slip of paper barely fits in. For geocaching, a cache could contain a variety of items, most important of all, the log for you to sign you username and date you found the cache. It can also contain a variety of trinkets people leave, such as pens, small toys, painted rocks or anything else the cacher wants to leave. There is a general rule that if you take something from the cahce, you leave something or the next person to find.
To find the coordinates of the cache, go to geocaching.com or opencaching.com, put in your location and search for caches in your area. Jot down or upload the coordinates to your GPS and you're off to find some treasure in the form of caches. Some things to take into consideration when deciding which cache you want to look for is the difficulty and terrain, and scan through the comments to make sure the cache is not flagged for maintenance. Other things you may see listed are tracker bugs, which is a small item that is tagged with a tracking code. These items are meant to be taken from one cache and placed in another, then logged online so the owner, and anyone else who wants to follow it, can see where it has traveled. Just remember, if you take a tracker bug out of a cache, make sure you pay attention to it's mission and place it soon after in another cache that will get it closer to finishing it's mission.
Homeschooling activities with geocaching.
Geocaching is great to combine with lessons on map reading and longitude and latitude. If you have a GPS, let the kids take a look at the coordinates as you go out to find things. Look at the similarities in the numbers, and what they mean. Let the kids be in charge of the GPS and have them try to find the cache. As another lesson, have the kids pick some locations around the world and go back to geocaching.com and put those locations in, such as Paris, or the Great Wall of China. Have the kids compare the local coordinate numbers with those of other locations. Try Antarctica and Australia to see how they look when you get closer to the poles.
For added challenge, try doing some map reading and teach the kids how to read a map and find coordinates based on measurements and a compass rather than using a GPS. Have them try this out and see which method is easier, and which one they prefer. Here is a great article talking about how to find a cache with only a map and compass.
Anytime you are out in nature it makes for a fun reason to go out to find a cache. It provides exercise, gets you out in new places to explore and observe. Have the kids create geocaching journals. They can draw pictures, record sights and sounds and anything else in the environment they observe. When their journal is full, they can go back through all of the locations to reminisce about the memories as well as compare and contrast what they found in the different locations. This also could spark some questions about different things they found in nature.
Omaha area geocaching ideas.
Many of the caches around the Omaha Nebraska area are in urban areas, but if you look close at some of the maps, you can find some great parks to search through to get off the trails. For example, Standing Bear Lake between 132nd Street and 144th Street just north of Fort Street has a great collection of caches hidden in the trees and under rocks. If you've had your fun locally, you might consider hiding your own caches, or even taking your geocaching on the road for some out of town field trips or on vacation. The best part of geocaching, is there is probably a cache close by to you. Another option is to check out the Nebraska page on geocaching.com to see if there are any upcoming events to participate in and meet other geocachers.