CLARK, NJ - Fifth-grade students at Valley Road School ended the school year with a geocaching trip to Oak Ridge Park. The trip was the culminating activity to a unit of study on general map skills, longitude and latitude coordinates and orienteering that had spanned the school year.
For those that are not familiar with it, geocaching is a real-life treasure hunt. Generally, it starts with someone putting a few trinkets in a container, skillfully hiding it and then listing it on a popular geocaching website. Hunters use either GPS equipment or a geocaching App to find the hidden cache. When they find it, the geocacher will sign and date a small logbook within the cache and log their experience on the geocaching website. Before putting the cache back where it was found, many hunters will take one of the trinkets in the container and replace it with one they have brought along of equal or greater worth.
To get started, Mrs. Cahill, Mr. Lowe and Ms. Williamson created accounts for each of their classes on a geocaching website with interactive treasure hunts. This site allows users to find treasures using internet maps and lines of latitude and longitude. Next they taught their classes how to navigate the website and locate geocaches in Clark. The students soon discovered that Oak Ridge Park in Clark had thirteen caches for new geocachers. The teachers decided to give the kids the chance to work together, use the skills they had learned all year, and get a little dirty in the woods. Mrs. Cahill’s class got serious and found ten of the thirteen caches on their day at the park.
As part of the experience the teachers bought trackable items for their classes to place in geocaches so they could follow them online as part of Social Studies lessons. In the world of geocaching, trackables are small objects with unique serial numbers. When found in a geocache, the object can be taken and moved to another geocache. The serial number is later logged in on the geocaching website. This allows students to follow the trackable online as it moves anywhere around the town, the country or the world from cache to cache.
An additional educational benefit to this game is that it brings geocachers to many historical places they did not know existed. In keeping with this tradition, the fifth grade teachers created a 5th grade geocache located at the Robinson Plantation Museum on Madison Hill Road in Clark. This attracted students, their families and other cachers to come and visit the museum.
Mrs. Cahill’s class became particularly captivated by this activity. They took the activity even further by working in groups to create six geocaches that Mrs. Cahill hid for classmates to find. Each group created their own page and explained why they chose to hid them in a specific spot. The caches are now a part of an active worldwide treasure hunt.
By the end of the experience it appeared these Clark students learned skills, had fun and made memories. Their teachers had indeed found a way to make teaching map skills to the millennium generation real and relevant.
To learn more about geocaching, treasure seekers can visit this popular website, https://www.geocaching.com The site boasts “more than two million geocaches waiting to be found throughout the world, in more than 180 countries.”