Steps in Creating EduCaching Lessons for K-12 Classrooms
Dr. Christie's hands-on, learn-by-doing model of professional development is equally applicable in K-12 classrooms. Once teachers have experienced this model - and been in the role of learners working with other learners to solve problems - they can apply this model in their own classrooms. Teachers will modify the activity to align with specific state and local standards and grade level or developmental level of their students. But the principles of using GPS receivers, geocaching, and discovery learning remain the same.
Basically, K-12 teachers need to follow these steps in planning similar workshops for their classrooms:
- Buy, rent, or borrow GPS receivers (one for each group of 3-4 students). Schools or school districts may soon be purchasing class sets of GPS units for rotating use in classrooms.
- Decide on the curricular focus of the lesson/activity.
- Train a small group of students (from within the teacher’s class or from a group of older students) on the use of GPS receivers. They will serve as mentors to each of the small groups of students participating in the lesson/activity. Schools or school districts may soon identify GPS mentors who can help in any classroom.
- Gather objects or create clues that will foster learning, raise curiosity, and encourage discussion about the curricular area chosen. (See the example of a sixth grade teacher’s unit on US National Parks below.)
- Place these objects/clues in inexpensive plastic containers with an appropriate label. The label I use is pictured below:
- Hide these geocaches (with the help of mentors) at least 100 yards apart in the vicinity of your classrooms or other outdoor area to which the school has access.
- Record the coordinates of each geocache in GPS receivers.
- Introduce the lesson/activity to the class.
- Divide the class into groups (with no more than four per group).
- Provide brief instruction on the use of GPS receivers and specify how the mentors will help each group.
- Give each team a GPS receiver containing the coordinates of the geocaches they are assigned to find.
- Send each team and mentor outside to work collaboratively to find their assigned geocaches. Allow time for students to experiment, make mistakes, talk about these mistakes and how to overcome them, find their geocaches, and return to their classroom with their geocaches in hand.
- Facilitate small group discussions (within each team) about the contents of the geocaches and how these contribute to students’ understanding of the curricular area.
- Facilitate a large group discussion (across all teams) about students’ understanding of the curricular area.
- Facilitate a large group discussion about students’ experiences with GPS and geocaching, including suggestions for future GPS/geocaching experiences.