Geological Society of America. Adapted with permission.
EarthCaching is an exciting educational activity through which you can learn about Earth and the natural processes that shape our planet over time. By combining GPS technology with outdoor field experiences, EarthCaching allows students and others to experience the wonders of Earth in an entirely new and entertaining way.
Information about EarthCaching for educators can be found at http://www.geosociety.org/Earthcache_Lessons. There is a free Educator’s Guide that includes lessons and correlations to the National Science Education Standards and National Geography Education Standards.
Here are some initial ideas for using EarthCaching as a tool to teach and learn about the planet and how it is constantly changing over time. Students may work in small groups or individually. Teachers and students should take appropriate safety precautions at all times.
- GPS units or GPS-enabled mobile phones
- EarthCaching: An Educator’s Guide (free download at www.geosociety.org/Earthcache/teacherGuide.htm)
- Computer with Internet access
- Pens or pencils and notebooks of lined paper
- Cameras (optional)
Go to www.geocaching.com or www.earthcache.org and find EarthCaches near your school or near an upcoming field trip destination. Any EarthCache will do, but look for those that focus on processes that change Earth’s surface, such as erosion, weathering, and deposition. These topics often are featured in state learning standards.
Select an EarthCache and print its information, including images and logging tasks. Discuss what you expect to find at the EarthCache and explore connections to lessons learned previously in class.
With your teacher’s guidance, visit the EarthCache and solve the required logging tasks. Record your answers in your notebook. Photographs are not required, but they are encouraged. You may enjoy documenting your findings with a cellular phone camera, for example.
Back at school, review your answers to the logging tasks together as a class. Go to www.geocaching.com to submit your answers, upload photographs (optional), and “log” your EarthCache find.
Visit a few EarthCaches “virtually” as a class. Read EarthCache descriptions printed from www.geocaching.com, or use a projector to view them together on-screen. Use software such as Google Maps or Google Earth to virtually travel to the EarthCache and get a feel for the area.
With your teacher’s guidance, create your own EarthCache on the land surrounding your school. Discuss how to find and use locations that highlight processes that change Earth’s surface, such as weathering, erosion, and deposition. These tend to be processes that are easily found in a schoolyard. Record the latitude and longitude of each EarthCache location, as determined using a GPS unit.
An EarthCache development template is provided in EarthCaching: An Educator’s Guide. Use this template to develop your EarthCache, including a description of the geologic processes at work, coordinates, and logging tasks.
When your EarthCache is complete, trade information with another student. Find his or her EarthCache with your GPS unit, and attempt to solve the logging tasks. Afterward, check each other’s work and discuss what you observed, what you learned, and how it connects to what you learned previously in class.