The Spoon River College Office of Community Outreach offered participants in the summer youth program in Canton and Rushville the opportunity to look for treasure while also learning about GPS technology. Geocaching: Technology and Treasure was geared towards boys and girls who had completed 5th-8th grades.
According to the official geocaching website, geocaching is “a free real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
“We had them go to the geocaching website in order to learn the rules and to find treasure sites near their zip codes,” said Andrea Barbknecht, technology coordinator of community outreach who led the Rushville students in the program. “They then had to record several search sites, including cache size, terrain, and latitude and longitude coordinates.”
Armed with a car GPS to find the general location, students took turns using the coordinates to locate the specific spot where they would begin searching for the geocaches, which vary in size.
“Many of the geocaches are medicine bottles or peanut butter jars that have been covered with camouflage duct tape, and they all contain a slip of paper inside that students sign after finding them,” said Barbknecht.
And since it is a treasure hunt, some of the caches also contained some sort of trinket, such as small toys or coins, which the students could exchange for something of equal or greater value. The college provided magnets, key chains, golf tees, and buttons for students to trade.
“Part of geocaching is also leaving things better than we found them, so students also picked up any trash at the sites we searched,” Barbknecht said.
The group in Rushville found seven of the nine geocaches they searched for, while the Canton group found 10 of the 12 they searched for. All the participants kept track of what they found, including information about size, difficulty, terrain, what was found and what was traded. Upon returning to the classroom, they again visited the geocaching website, logging their finds so other geocachers would know their cache had been recently “found.”
So what was the reaction from students who had to contend with some extreme heat while looking for their treasures?
“It was amazing, with an extra ‘zing!’ I love this program and will come again next year!”