By Lonnie Huhman,
A modern day treasure hunt recently took over Wylie Elementary School as third and fourth-graders learned about GPS technology while also enjoying the outdoors.
Over the past month, the students have been working on a project that culminated with them using GPS, clues, teamwork and cell phones to find geocaches placed around school grounds.
Wylie’s Media Specialist Meredith Nickerson said their unit, “began with an introduction to Geocaching, which is a free, real-world treasure hunt.”
She said in their first lesson, they discussed how to locate and find geocaches, the rules of geocaching, and geocaching etiquette – all important skills when one is seeking out geocaches.
In the second lesson, she said they took a walking field trip to a nearby park, “where a wonderful, riddle-based geocache is located.”
“The kids loved going for a quick walk, exploring a park that they didn’t know very well, and ultimately finding a cleverly hidden geocache,” Nickerson said.
In the third lesson, the students learned about the science behind GPS technology, discussed how to make private, custom maps in Google My Maps and hid a small geocache somewhere on Wylie’s school grounds.
Nickerson said each class brainstormed and voted on the location of their geocaches, and the students, “came up with some pretty fantastic hiding spots.”
She said they then plotted the cache location on a shared Google Map.
And then, in the final lesson students were given the opportunity to hunt for the 20 geocaches that had been hidden both inside and outside of Wylie.
“The kids are having a blast working as a team to find these caches and seem to be equally proud when students in other classes find their own,” Nickerson said.
Third-grader Addison Dresch supported her teacher’s sentiment.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Addison said after completing the geocache hunt.
“It was fun figuring out where they were,” she said.
Her classmate Griffin Heike agreed.
“Treasure hunting is fun” he said. “I like the clues and then trying to find them.”
Nickerson said as a former director of an outdoor education program, she knows how essential it is to get kids outdoors.
“I have been seeking out opportunities in which we could combine technology skills with the outdoors, and it turns out that Geocaching was a perfect fit!” she said.
She said her goal for the unit was to have students practice mapping skills, learn the science of GPS technology, learn more about their local community, and to teach students a skill/hobby that they continue as the weather warms and they move into summer break.
“Geocaching is an amazing, free family activity that gets kids outdoors and creates a sense of wonder and curiosity in all involved,” she said.