News and Tribune

September 27, 2008

Green Valley students learn about geocaching

By CHRIS MORRIS

Taylor Hendricks was learning, but he was also having fun.

The perfect combination for any fourth- or fifth-grader.

“This is better than sitting in a classroom,” Taylor said.

His classmates echoed those exact sentiments.

“It’s fun. At first it didn’t seem like it was fun until we started looking for it,” Dylan Hiser said.

The “it” the students were looking for were hidden treasures in the rear of Green Valley Elementary School. All the students got a quick lesson in geocaching, a map of the area with latitude and longitude coordinates and a few helpful hints. The students were broken up into five teams and, after their lesson, raced out of Gail Case’s classroom to the field behind the school in search of treasure.

Team No 1 found its hidden treasure first. It was filled with pencils and erasers. But the real prize came from the thrill of finding the cache hidden in the grass.

“This is hands-on and that is the most beneficial learning experience there is,” Case said.

The treasure hunt was organized by Terri Steele, whose daughter, Anna, is a student in Case’s class.

Steele has been geocaching all over the country. To date, she has found 54 geocaches. Her cousin has found more than 2,000.

Geocaching is a game of hiding and finding treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS or Global Positioning System technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.

There are more than 650,000 active geocaches around the world. By typing in an area at www.geocaching.com, you can find out how many treasures are in a certain area. Steele estimates New Albany has between 50 and 100 geocaches hidden.

Many times, the hidden case or canister has a log for the finder to fill out or a little trinket. The fun, Steele said, is trying to find the geocaches. She uses a GPS device when geocaching. The students, however, had no such device.

“It was harder than I thought it would be,” Hiser said after his group was successful in finding the geocache. “After we looked for it, she (Steele) gave us a hint and we found it.”

“I like doing this because you can hunt and find treasure,” said Steele’s daughter, Anna.

“The kids are loving this,” Case said. “This is a smart group and I would like to do more stuff like this year. This is a lot better than learning this with a book and worksheet.”

Steele said geocaches are rarely buried. She hid a few in the grass Friday and one inside a tree trunk.

“I didn’t want to make it too easy,” she said. “This is a hard way to geocache. All they had was a map and the coordinates.

“I have had to go to some scary places to find geocaches. Some people can be very creative when hiding geocaches.”