Vicky Duran is a homeschooling mother from near Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has two children, ages 11 and 4, and is also known to educate other children through homeschooling at her house. Vicky and her family discovered geocaching about a year ago and have a great time exploring parts of their area they had never explored before. This is part 2 of a 3 part series where Vicky shares about geocaching as an educational family activity.
What is geocaching.com?
The internet site “geocaching.com” is the clearinghouse of sorts for the sport of geocaching. It is where you go to find maps and coordinates of hidden caches. You will have to create a (free) basic account complete with an account name and password. An account name can be a made-up name, which most of them are, or a combination of initials. Some even use their amateur radio call signs. Once your account is created, you can search the website for geocaches near you area. Once you find ones you might be interested in you can check the difficulty of the cache. Using a star system, a rating of Difficulty 1, and Terrain 1 means that it is an extremely easy and probably wheelchair accessible cache. On the other hand, a Difficulty of 5 and a Terrain of 5 means you had better be an expert to be able to fish those caches out. There is also a size rating that will tell you an approximate size of cache you are looking for. The nice thing about the more than 1 million, 92-thousand caches hidden around the world is that there is something out there for everyone.
This is sounding interesting, but my kids… I don’t want them to find something that is inappropriate.
I hear you there! To participate with www.geocaching.com, there are guidelines one must agree to. One of them is that there is to be NO inappropriate material left in the caches. This activity is stressed as a family friendly game and everyone works hard to keep it safe and fun for kids. Other guidelines include asking permission before crossing private property, cache in, trash out (which means pick up trash you see as you are on your adventure)., and if you take an item from a cache, be sure to leave something of equal or greater value.
Ok, this sounds good. But what educational value is there in this?
There is a lot! First of all the coordinates give you a great geography lesson in latitude, longitude, degrees, minutes and seconds (and I’m not talking about time, either.)
Also, many cache hiders hide caches in places they want people to come to; there’s something to see, discover or learn about. Plus, in the year we’ve been caching, we have seen birds, plants, deer and other animals that we would research about when we returned home. You can create your own treasure hunt. For example, to help my boys get ready for a history test, I hid a bunch of questions around my place, noted the coordinates and gave them to the boys. They had to find the questions, answer them and find the next as quickly as possible. They had great fun with that. You can also follow a travel bug as it moves from cache to cache.
Is something you would do on Sabbath?
Really, that is a personal and family choice, so I really don’t want to make the choice for you. However, for MY family we find it to be a very appropriate Sabbath activity.
Travel Bug?! Ugh, what’s that?
Don’t worry, it’s not some creepy crawly thing that bites you. A travel bug is really only a special military-like dog tag with a unique serial number that can be activated through www.geocaching.com. You attach the dog tag to a host (perhaps a Hot Wheels Car or a small stuffed animal, etc.) attach a sturdy card with a goal for the travel bug (if you want to give it a goal), list the travel bug on your geocaching.com account and release it into a cache.
As people pick it up, move from place to place and log the movement, you are notified of your travel bug’s progress through emails.
Interesting. Have you sent out travel bugs?
Yes, we have. We sent out bugs for each of the kids with a goal to make it to a cache near their grandparents’ house in Washington State. It took about six months for one to make it, the other one is currently listed as “unknown location.” The one that made it reached Washington via Montana, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada before finally ending up at its goal. It even visited a cache inside the Mall of America! The other travel bug, before it went missing was at the Twins baseball game last fall when they played a one game play-off game that went 15 innings. It was a big story here, and our travel bug was at the game. We even received a picture of it inside the Metrodome! We currently have a third travel bug out that has already visited Mexico.
Tomorrow – Hiding a cache