Geocaching is Taking Classroom Field-trips by Storm
One of the most rapidly rising field-trip activities has become geocaching - a newly popular treasure hunting 'sport' which involves hiding and seeking out trinkets using GPS coordinates. One group hides the cache, while others work together to find the treasure. When found, the group logs in at the location and typically takes a token item left behind and leaves another in its place. When three or more people are on the seeking team, communication is important for coordination and is usually best done with two-way radios.
Why stop at the gifted classes? All kids love these trips and several important life-tools are taught as a natural part of the game - teamwork, coordination, communication and perseverance.
Have your group look into adding geocaching to your next outing. We've put together the basic information you'll need to get your class started.
Communication is Key with Team Geocaching. Are There Two Members on Your team? Four? Fifteen?
Team geocaching requires long-distance communication. What are the most common tools? You guessed it - two-way radios and cellphones. Cell phones are often used in urban settings when only two teammates are searching. BUT, when three or more are searching, or cell-tower signal do not reach outlying areas, there's only one modern method that works for a group - two-way radios, because multiple people may communicate on a single channel. Here is some basic information that will help your crew.
The primary problem with cell phones is that group communication is frequently not possible. And, there are typically per-minute or monthly charges associated. With walkie-talkies, that are no usage fees and as many members as you have on a team may communicate at one time. Choose wisely to give your group the edge. The vast majority of users who want a reliable radio will get one like the Motorola CLS1110, which is powerful and durable enough to handle a geocaching group, but also the least expensive business radio on the market.
Geocaching is a hide-and-seek, treasure-hunting game that is played worldwide and uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to find hidden caches. To begin geocaching, users register online for free at the geocaching website, accessing a database where users list coordinates of different caches. Once registered, a user will find the coordinates for a cache for which they want to search, and enter those coordinates in their GPS system. Once a cache is discovered, the user will sign his or her name in a logbook; therefore documenting they found the cache, and then share their find online. Many users take photographs documenting the cache, cache items, or the surrounding area, and then share those pictures with other users. Most caches contain a logbook and other items that are used for trade. Logbooks, pencils, and stamps must remain in a cache, but finders may keep trade items, as long as they replace them with other items of similar or greater value. Geocachers are expected to abide by laws and play the game in a responsible manner as people from all age ranges take part in the activity.
The first game was played by a man from Oregon named Dave Ulmer, known as "the father of geocaching". On May 3, 2000, Ulmer documented placing a geocache and three days later, the cache had been found twice. The game caught on and players would join Usenet groups in order to find other geocaches. The game was originally called GPS Stashing and caches were referred to as stashes. The game developed over time and the name later changed to geocaching. As technological advancements continue to increase, geocaching has evolved. In addition to GPS technology, players may also use mobile phone devices and two way radios (radios that both transmit and receive data) to locate caches and communicate with other players.
The geocaches are the heart and soul of this game. While there is great excitement in searching for hidden items, it's when a geocache is found, documented, and recorded that players experience the greatest thrills. No two geocaches are alike and each varies in size, shape and items contained. There aren't many rules to geocaching, but one basic rule is that no items may be removed from a geocache unless replaced by other items of equal or greater volume. Likewise, the logbook must remain inside the geocache, as this is the instrument used to document each find. Geocaches may be as small as a pencil eraser or a large-sized bucket. Geocaches should never be moved once found. If you find a cache then believe that it is in an improper location, stolen, or vandalized, etiquette dictates that the geocacher contact the cache owner via a "Maintenance Needed" log and alert them to any issue. The cache owner would then make the decision whether to fix, replace, move, or archive his or her cache.
Without technology, geocaching could be an incredibly tedious and difficult hobby; without GPS systems, players would rely on archaic methods to share locations of hidden caches, making it problematic and much less accurate. It is because of advancements in satellite technology that geocaching has become a popular hobby. GPS is no longer limited to a particular device, but is now a feature in many mobile phones. This has allowed more people to participate in geocaching, as they can use their mobile phones for their tracking device. Still, many prefer to use standard GPS devices when searching for caches.
Other devices used include two-way radios. Two-way radios enable users to communicate with other geocachers by sending and receiving spoken messages. The Family Radio Service has dedicated channel 2 to geocaching purposes. In addition to these communication and tracking devices, still other technologically based tools and items used in geocaching include compasses, flashlights, bags for carrying cache items collected and exchanged and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).
Variations of Geocaching
In addition to traditional geocaching, that usually includes a single cache to be found, there are different types of caches that impact how the game is played, including multi-caches, Earthcaches, mystery/puzzle caches, and many more. In a multi-cache, players search for multiple caches, each with a different piece of the final coordinates to the end cache; each cache is needed to reach the end. Some variations, like the Mystery Puzzle cache, involve hints or clues that are given in order to reveal the cache's location.
Letterboxing is another hobby that is similar to geocaching. One variation includes a blend of geocaching and letterboxing and the player may use coordinates to find both. There are numerous variations of geocaching and new variants are continually added. For those who enjoy the hobby, geocaching provides countless hours of excitement that culminates in gratification once a cache is found.
- What is Geocaching?
- A Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Geocaching (pdf)
- Geocaching in the Petrified Forest National Park
- Geocaching Frequently Asked Questions
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Geocaching Site
- U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management: Geocaching
- Geocaching and GPS Activities
- An Effective Geocache Collection in Mobile Networks using Boomerang Protocol (pdf)
- Geocache GV
- Tupperware in the Woods: Recommended Geocaching Equipment
- Geocaching and Letterboxing
- Geocaching: Interactive Communication Instruments around the Game
- Frequently Asked Questions about Geocaching (pdf)
- Exploring West Virginia through Geocaching (pdf)