Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

Geocaching

Leave and locate hidden packages in a real-world treasure hunt
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • Kids can search for nearby geocaches in a variety of ways.
  • Instructions and explanations about how geocaching works are featured on several site pages.
  • Kids can also find out definitions for terms like muggle, which, in a nod to the Harry Potter series, users refer to non-geocacher civilians.
  • The educator section includes a few resources such as videos and brochures that explain geocaching.
  • Geocache listings include coordinates, notes from the creator and other users, and other information.
Pros
The virtual-to-real-world treasure hunts provide a fun activity that can, with guidance, teach kids about math, geography, and other subjects.
Cons
There’s no guarantee the geocaches that other users place will contain appropriate content.
Bottom Line
Kids learn problem-solving, teamwork, and mapping skills, but the site doesn’t provide instruction or explanations for most of those topics; educators will have to fill in the gaps.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Kids will enjoy the payoff of finding physical objects if they master GPS and map use; the chance to share the treasure hunt experience with others should also pique their curiosity.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

The experience can help kids practice and learn skills like reading comprehension, measuring distances, and logic. But the lessons aren't directly reinforced; adults will need to tie the activities into geography, math, and other subjects.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

On the site, kids can find out how to use GPS technology and log recent hunts. Parents and teachers can get usage ideas on a forum. But the system counts on other users providing individual feedback via the site's message boards.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

If used safely, Geocaching can provide some entertaining geography and investigation lessons. Kids can find out how to load coordinates into a GPS, which offers tech skill experience and can help them learn to estimate distance. Teachers can also show students how to search for nearby geocaches on the site by keying in information such as a zip code or latitude and longitude, which can be used as a jumping-off point to discuss graphs, measurement, and other math concepts. Some geocaches require that you first find a clue or solve a complex puzzle. But even simple caches should provide a challenge. They rarely seem to be in plain sight, which makes finding the geocache so fun that kids may not even realize they’re learning about concepts like map reading, following directions, and critical thinking.

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What's It Like?

Geocaching serves as a home base for an ongoing, user-supported, real-world treasure hunt. Using a GPS system, smartphone, maps, and other instruments, users try to find hidden containers (geocaches, also called caches) that other users have left in locations around the world. Users can track items they've found on the site, share stories, and log the location of caches they've hidden.

The containers, which range in size, are sometimes disguised -- such as a faux pine cone hanging in a tree -- and usually contain a log book. Users sometimes also leave trinkets. Site administrators don’t physically check each location, but volunteers review each description submitted to the site to ensure it meets geocaching guidelines (no public or private property is defaced, the cache isn't buried, etc.). Still, to ensure kids don't come across anything suspect, teachers may want to restrict their site use to geocaches classmates have hidden.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Geocaching encourages kids to explore the world around them and also offers lessons on how maps work, geography, and estimation. Kids search for geocaches by keying in an address, state, latitude and longitude, or other item, which can prompt discussions on creating graphs, measuring distances, and other math concepts. A glossary of terms provides definitions for site-specific words and geographical terms. Because some items may be near historical locations, the activity could also offer a potential social studies tie-in.

Kids can better learn to collaborate and cooperate if they work in groups to find a cache. They'll definitely work their critical-thinking skills as they try to track down the item. And discussing their finds on the site can help kids practice communication and writing.

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See how teachers are using Geocaching