Geocaching With Kids
Activate the Learning Environment
Our First
Geocaching is a great activity for all ages. Whether parents want to explore nature with their children or teachers want to activate the learning environment with hands-on experiences, there's a geocache adventure that's right for you.
Although some parents and teachers are setting up special geocaches for scout groups and classes, you don't need a special geocache for children. The key is to plan ahead and think about activities that will interest and motivate children and young adults. For example, you might do a geocache in the spring or summer and bring along a wildflower guide. We found the tiger lily on the right on a roadside near a trail leading to a geocache.

Use Your Senses
Wake up your children to the beauty of the world. You need to look, listen, smell, touch, and sometimes taste nature to experience its wonder. Look for plants, animals, and insects. Listen to the wind and water. Smell the tree bark. Did you know the Jeffrey Pine tree smells like butterscotch? Touch the rocks and pine cones. Did you know that pumice stones are very light and airy?
Look for the small details that make the world interesting. No matter where you are, there are fascinating things to learn. If the kids say it's "boring," they haven't looked hard enough. From identifying animal scat (poop) to speculating about the inhabitants of a hole a tree, make nature come alive. It helps to carry a small nature guidebook. We particularly like the ones produced by National Audubon Society, Lone Pine Publishing, and Falcon Guides.
On our walk out to the Big Lava Bed geocache, we saw an interesting white flower. On the Bear-Grass flower, we discovered a small white spider with two bright red stripes. Cool! We opened our Bugs of Washington and Oregon book. After much discussion, we declared it a goldenrod crab spider. It hangs around pollen-bearing plants and has some of the best camouflage in the bug world!
Explore a Variety of Tools
Whether you're into pencil sketching or digital photography, you can find lots of ways to connect to nature. Choose the tools that fit your needs.
GPS Device. Of course you'll need a GPS device to locate the coordinates of geocaches. You have two choices. First, you can purchase a hand-held GPS device by a company such as Garmin. These cost from $100 to $300 depending on the "extras". If you're working with kids, keep it simple. You don't need the features offered in the high-end devices. Your second option is to add a GPS module to a Palm OS device such as a Handspring Visor. These are nice because you can use the same device for your GPS, data recording, and even photography.
Notebook or Sketchpad. You'll want a notebook and pencil to record your adventure. It doesn't need to be a large pad, but a spiral binding is nice. Teachers may want to develop an exploration book that includes guiding questions, diagrams, and other resources to focus student attention. These anticipation guides get students involved with their surroundings from the beginning of the trip. Some people like to bring pens, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, and other art supplies. These fit nice in a backpack along with your lunch. Some people like to use clipboards too.
PDA or Laptop Computer. If you've got lots of data to record, it might be a good idea to bring along a handheld PDA or laptop computer. For example, your students might do water testing or other types of data collection.
Camera. Film cameras, disposable cameras, and digital cameras are all great for nature photography. Water cameras are nice to use with kids near the river or ocean. Digital cameras are nice because you don't have to worry about pictures that don't turn out well. You can take lots of pictures, then choose the best shot. If you're worried about kids handling cameras, develop a set of rules. For example, the camera must always be kept around the neck so it doesn't get dropped or lost.
Audio Recorder. You can use a PDA or a cassette recorder to record the sounds of nature. It's also interesting to record observations and music.
Video Recorder. A video player is nice on trips that involve some type of motion such as a waterfall or animal life. Rather than recording still objects, think of creative ways to use the video recorder. For example, you might record steps in a process.
Testing Equipment. Some geocaches are a good opportunity to do some nature testing including soil, water, rocks, wind, and other experiments. You could even include the testing equipment in the cache itself.

Create Nature Connections
Go beyond the "treasure hunt" aspect of geocaching and consider nature connections. For example, your children might identify wildflowers, mushrooms, lichens, rocks, fossils, animal tracks, scat, or other signs of wildlife. Ask them to select a rock that they will later paint or photograph a scene for a writing assignment.
Get students involved with a large scale project. For example, while going to geocaches look for animal tracks. In the picture on the left Ashley created plaster casts of animal tracks for a 4H project.
Use a geocache project as part of a nature cleanup.
Create Historical and Cultural Connections
When people think about geocaching, they usually think about nature. However many people are designing caches in historical or cultural areas. For example, the Buried Loot Beyond the Valley of Fire geocache passes along a canyon filled with interesting petroglyphs and evidence of early settlers. Students could learn about the ancient people, interpret the petroglyphs, and create their own on paper.
Consider creating a cultural cache filled with items reflecting the area such as native instruments that students could try. Some people are even incorporating audiotapes or small recorded chips into their cache so students can listen to stories or music related to the setting of the cache. Be creative!
If you establish a historical or cultural cache, be considerate of the people, the heritage, and the land. If you place one in a historical park, check first.
Design Club and Class Experiences
When working with large groups, consider the cache contents. For example, if you have a dozen kids and they will be trading trinkets, they will each need something to trade. You don't want to overrun the cache, so consider bringing extra treasures to be sure that the cache has a nice variety of materials when you leave. Or, place a "group" object and select something to take as a group. Some classes include something they've made such as a class book.
When working with clubs or classes, consider small group activities. It's more fun if each child has a specific task or responsibility. For example, in groups of three you might have a photographer, a log book keeper, and a gps user. They can trade responsibilities so they all get a chance to participate.
Think about setting a variety of caches that students could rotate through. You might have geocache stations throughout a nature park, historic site, or amusement park. Try a bike scavenger hunt.
If you're looking for ideas in related areas that might apply to geocaching, check the links below:
Our First

Created by
Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 07/01.