G is for Geocaching

Educational Benefits of Geocaching.jpg

Geocaching is one of my favorite activities! Exploring, adventure, fresh air! What more could you ask and you get it all with this modern day treasure hunting activity!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with geocaching, at it’s most basic, it’s grabbing some coordinates online from geocaching.com, then using a GPS to find a little container (cache) that was hidden by another geocacher.

Geocaching search

Here the girls are searching around a tree in the area a cache is supposed to be hidden. It could be any place. On the ground under sticks and leaves, hanging up in the branches, stuck in a hole or maybe some other creative location the person who hid it found.

Sometimes these containers are small like a little film canister or pill box. Often even smaller!  They can be made to look like something that would normally be found in the surroundings like a rock, part of the tree bark or even made to look like old chewing gum stuck to the bottom of a park bench (kids love that kind of creativity!).  The small ones usually only have room for a log book to make a note that you were there.

Many of the caches are a lot bigger. They can be an ammo can, lock in lock plastic container, or even homemade boxes.  We’ve found trick boxes that have spring loaded “snakes” that pop out at you if you open the wrong part.  We even found a big paint can that had several smaller containers inside it.

Geocaching ContainerWe finally found this one, and you’ll notice it is an old peanut butter jar.  Sometimes it will have a label on it marking it as an official geocache, like this one does. These are nice stickers because it allows a non-geocacher (muggle, borrowed from Harry Potter, to refer to the non-geocaching population) to find out about geocaching, know that it’s there for a purpose and hopefully leave it alone and maybe start geocaching too!

Treasures found in the cache

The picture above is the first cache Charlie found on her own.  She went straight too it and found it without any help (other than us getting her in the general area with the GPS.) This is one of the bigger, lock in lock containers.  You can see it has a bunch of little goodies for the kids, big and small, to look through and take. The rule is, if you take something, you leave something for the next person to find.  We usually leave army men and rubber duck themed items.

We’ve found a lot of things in these containers, from playing cards, old harmonicas to key chains and kids meal toys.  One of my favorites is the person in our area who paints rocks and leaves them for others to find. Sort of like his geocaching calling card.

Geocaching trackable

Sometimes you’ll find something like this little ladybug that has a geocaching tag attached to it.  This is s tracking tag (I blurred out the code on it, so you have to find it yourself if you want to log it!).  When you find a tracker, it’s never meant to keep. What you do is take it home, put the code in on the geocaching website to see what it’s mission is.  Log that you found it, then drop it in another cache that moves it forward on the mission.

Missions for geocaching trackers can be anything from moving it as far East as possible to visiting every state capital. Maybe a mission of a tracker would be to visit every continent (yes, there are caches on every continent, including Antarctica!)

Lake habitat

Finally, the information I promised you.

The educational benefits of geocaching.

This is an easy one!  Geocaching incorporates so may things for kids to learn about. Here are just a few:

Nature Walks: Get the kids out and have them observe their surroundings as you travel from cache to cache. What animals do they see? What about insects? Can they identify the different aspects of the local habitat? What about tree or plant identification? We explored the lake habitat while we were visiting the lake, pictured above.

Map Reading/GPS: My husband is most excited about this.  He always tells me, because he’s in the military and was a boy scout, that he can find caches better through his map reading than through the GPS. I’ve challenged him! Sometime, when the girls are a bit older, we’re going to give him a scale map of the area and a compass, and I’ll have the GPS, we’ll split into teams and see who can get to it faster. This would be a great comparison activity as well as teaching the science behind GPS, satellites, coordinates and more!

Problem Solving: Many caches require geocachers to solve basic problems to identify the coordinates or even figure out how to access the cache once they find it. This requires a bit of creativity and some problem solving skills.

Environment: There is a great philosophy among geocachers and that’s the idea of cache in/trash out. What this means, is its a great idea to take a bag with you when you go geocaching so you can pick up trash and clean up the area you are exploring.

Earth Caches: These are specific caches that take you to really cool geologic formations. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about the Earth. Remember my visit to Schramm Park a couple posts ago where we went hunting for fossils?  That was an Earth cache!

Have you ever gone geocaching? What was your favorite part?

A to Z Challenge

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21 Responses to G is for Geocaching

  1. Mahala says:

    I loved reading about this; I’ve often wondered what geocaching was all about. I’ve just described it to my son who is keen to have a go (hurray!). So thanks 🙂

    Fellow home-educator visiting from A-Z Challenge
    Mahala recently posted…Why Has Grayling Banned Books?My Profile

    • Mary says:

      Yes!!! Have a go at it, if you have any questions please let me know. We’ve been geocaching for a few years and I’ve learned a few things 🙂 Good luck! The first few are the most interesting because you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, lol.

  2. Lisa says:

    It is on our list to try, when we finally have a spare minute!
    Fellow homeschooler on the A-Z challenge.
    Lisa recently posted…Hard Work and HoundsMy Profile

    • Mary says:

      I hope you can find some time, and if anything turn it into a lesson! It’s a great excuse to get out for PE or learning about GPS.

  3. Wend says:

    How fun! Now I wonder if a cache ever gets lost or stolen and if so, if it gets replaced.
    Visiting from A to Z
    http://jollettetc.blogspot.com/
    Wend recently posted…A to Z April Challenge: G is for GriffithMy Profile

    • Mary says:

      Great question! Yes, sometimes caches do get lost or stolen. The website has a way to log did not find caches or caches that need maintenance. The person who owns the cache (the one who hid it) will go out and check it to see if it’s still there. If not they can either replace it or archive it. Sometimes small ones may be taken by an animal, or the wind may blow it away. Sometimes people find them, and others we have no idea where they disappear to.

  4. I love geocaching and we mostly do this with my father, who lives in Arizona. He started geocaching with a goal of finding 100 caches but he fell in love with the process so he and my Mom go out regularly. It makes it extra fun because he has an activity to do with his grandkids that all ages can enjoy and be active participants.

    My eldest daughter is especially good at it.

    I confess, I let out quite a woop when I am the one who finds it!

    Another great post, Mary!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    The Bold Writer from A to Z
    Julie Jordan Scott recently posted…G is for Grace: “I want first of all to be at peace with myself.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh & The Bold Writer from A to ZMy Profile

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Julie! One of my long term geocaching goals is to find a cache in every state. When I get to AZ we’ll have to look you up!

  5. Pingback: 100 Happy Days – Day 36 | Barefoot Mahala

  6. Jen says:

    I have never tried geocaching. I know a ton of people that do it. I’m going to look into it. I think my kids would really love it!
    Jen recently posted…GhostsMy Profile

  7. Cassie says:

    Thanks for this post – I think it’s the incentive I need to finally get out there with the kids and start geocaching!!! I’ve been meaning to for ages, but never seem to get started. Now is as good a time as any right? lol we homeschool as well, and it always seemed like a great activity to do with the kids
    Cassie recently posted…Gods of the living worldMy Profile

    • Mary says:

      Yes, just go out and try it! If you have a smartphone there are geocaching apps. They’ll tell you where caches are around you, so if you’re in the area doing something and need something to do for an hour (or less) just check out the local caches and you might just find one.

  8. Mahala says:

    I’m back again. Just popped by to let you know that since I read your post this morning, we’ve signed up, bought the Android app, been out and found 4 local caches (and failed to find a 5th, but by then the youngest two children had had enough).

    Since we got back, we’ve signed up as premium members and discovered lots more local caches, including two in our own street! I can see we will be checking the app everywhere we go and finding as many as possible!

    Thanks again x
    Mahala recently posted…100 Happy Days – Day 36My Profile

    • Mary says:

      I love it!!! I’m not a premium member at this time because we have plenty of regular caches out there. But now that the kids are getting older and more excited about it I might have to do it too! We even have some gear so we could place our own cache in the area. Might have to do it!! I’m glad you guys fell in love with this awesome activity. Enjoy and let me know some of the other things you find. You can friend me on geocaching.com if you’d like. My user id is sunny238 🙂

  9. Aarthi says:

    Thanks for introducing me to geocoaching. It is definitely something I would want to do with my daughter when the time is right. Good luck with rest of the challenge.

    • Mary says:

      I hope you try it out sometime! There is something about finding something hidden that excites me. Sometimes I’ll feel so defeated on a cache, then suddenly find it and my whole day is turned around…yes, it’s that exciting!

  10. Cristina says:

    I have NEVER heard about this. It’s like a scavenger hunt, message in a bottle, pirate treasure hybrid. My boys would LOVE this.
    Cristina recently posted…G is for GraceMy Profile

    • Mary says:

      Yes they would! Finding hidden things, going off the trail on occasion, keeping secrets…it’s pure awesome!

  11. Sarah Day says:

    We frequently see people headed up the hill by our house to find a geocache that’s up there. Always makes me wonder if we should try it.
    Sarah Day recently posted…M is for MondayMy Profile

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