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Place-Based Learning with Geocaching, GPS and Google Earth . Ridge View High School Donna Teuber, Instructional Technology Specialist. What is GPS?. The Global Positioning System tells you where you are on Earth.

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Place-Based Learning with Geocaching, GPS and Google Earth 

Ridge View High School

Donna Teuber, Instructional Technology Specialist

what is gps
What is GPS?
  • The Global Positioning System tells you where you are on Earth.
    • In space, orbiting around the earth are satellites. They help us to use GPS tracking by allowing us to connect with them. They can then tell us where we are going or where we are. It happens instantly and is capable of reaching destinations around the world.
  • What is a GPS device?
    • A GPS unit is an electronic device that can determine your approximate location on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Longitude and Latitude. You can use the unit to navigate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, voice navigation, depending on the complexity of the device.
using a gps receiver
Using a GPS Receiver
  • 3-4 satellites needed for accuracy
  • DOP number determines signal strength
    • Less than 2 DOP gives accuracy to 15 meters (90% of the time)
    • 4-6 DOP gives accuracy to 100 meters
  • Receivers also determine elevation (not as accurate)
  • Longitude lines (meridians) are vertical and measure east/west coordinates
  • The prime meridian begins in Greenwich, England at 0°
  • Lines wrap around the earth east and west to 180°
  • Latitude lines are horizontal and measure north/south coordinates
  • The equator is the center line
  • Everything above the equator is measured as north and everything below the equator is south

Nova Find Your Latitude and Longitude

reading coordinate addresses
Reading Coordinate Addresses
  • Full Address: Degrees, Minutes, Seconds
    • HDDD° MM’ SS.S”
    • N 43° 41’ 58.9” W 122° 49’ 10.7”
  • Decimal Minutes (eliminates seconds)
    • HDDD° MM.MMM’
    • N 43° 41.982’ W 122° 49.178’
  • Decimal Degrees (eliminates minutes and seconds)
    • N 43.69970° W 122.81963°

1° = 60’

(69.05 statute miles)

1’ = 60’’

(1 nautical mile)

1’’ = 100 feet

compass reading
Compass Reading
  • Declination – difference between true north and magnetic north
  • Each bearing on a compass is 1°
gps technology
GPS Technology
  • Global Positioning Satellite technology to determine location using latitude and longitude coordinates
    • 12 satellites visible at a time (network of 24 satellites)
    • Before May 2000, accuracy to 91 meters
    • Since 2000, increased accuracy with GPS receiver to 15 meters (49 feet)
    • Possibility of accuracy to less than 3 meters with WAAS (wide-area augmentation system)
  • Create a cache with a logbook and items for trading
  • Hide the cache in a location
  • Find the coordinates of the cache using your GPS
  • Go to to log the location (waypoints) of your cache
  • Others find your cache, take an item in the cache, leave a different item, and log their visit in the logbook and on the website
  • The first Geocache video
game variations
Game Variations
  • Letterboxing – follow clues to find box. Reward is a stamp.
  • Geodashing – race to be the first to reach all posted locations
  • Searching for and logging benchmarks
  • Virtual caches – find landmarks or historical places using the coordinates to locate the places on a map
  • Multi-stage caches – Clues at each cache lead to a final cache
  • Mystery or puzzle caches – solve a puzzle to find the coordinates to a location
  • Minute War – capture the flag game
book crossing
Book Crossing
  • A book-lovers activity!
  • bookcrossing: n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise. (added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in August 2004)
  • Books are registered with a BC ID number and left somewhere
  • Finders read the book, write a journal entry, and release the book again
  • April 20-22, North American Book Crossing Convention in Charleston, SC
degree confluence project
Degree Confluence Project
  • Geotagging project
  • Photographing latitude and longitude intersections around the world (13,539 left to find)
geomystery project
GeoMystery Project

What is unique about where you live?What is unique about a place?

Choose ONE unique place(It could be where you live or a place of study.)Brainstorm and web your ideas. Draw pictures, take digital photos, or regular camera photosof the uniqueness of places within that ONE unique place.Write captions for each picture.

global positioning of history project
Global Positioning of History Project

This project was designed to teach students about the history of the area that they live in. They also learn how to use a GPS and mapping software. These web pages are the results of this project.

exploring benchmarks and waymarks
Exploring Benchmarks and Waymarks
  • A benchmark is a point whose position is known to a high degree of accuracy and is normally marked in some way.
  • Benchmarks are created by the National Geodetic Survey -
  • Waymarking is a way to mark unique locations on the planet and record interesting information about those locations -
travel bugs and hitchhikers
Travel Bugs and Hitchhikers
  • Hitchhikers are any items that are moved from cache to cache
  • Travel Bugs are metal tags with unique tracking numbers for lookup at
  • Geocoins are collectible coins that move from cache to cache
  • Travel Bugs are usually attached to a hitchhiker and the online log provides information about where the owner wants the travel bug to go
  • Finders move the hitchhiker and bug to new locations and log the new location on the website
fun stuff
Fun Stuff
  • Canonball Run was a travel bug race held in 2003. Awards were given for most mileage and the most number of caches.
  • Darth Vader travelled around the world and covered 17,534.64 miles by Oct. of 2003
geo lingo
  • Waypoint – saved point of interest
  • Benchmark – NGS sites marked around the world
  • Muggle – people around a geocache who are not geocaching!
  • Geotagging – A process of tagging photos or other items with GPS coordinates
how does gps technology fit into the curriculum
How Does GPS Technology Fit into the Curriculum?


  • Students will work in teams to use the GPS receivers to find caches, solve mysteries, or use maps to locate waypoints.
  • Technology-Infused Lesson Plans:
  • GPS receivers can be used in all subject areas as well as for interdisciplinary projects.

Place-based Learning:

  • In place-based learning, classrooms are viewed as dynamic learning sites where students and teachers work as partners. The focus is on authentic learning as well as placed-based approaches including cultural and historical studies, nature exploration, and real-world problem solving. (Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson)

Conservation – Cache In Trash Out:

  • Classes participating in activities will be asked to participate in the Cache In Trash Out project and take trash away from cache sites.
educational applications
Educational Applications
  • Latitude & Longitude
  • Compasses and directions
  • Geography – Landforms, maps and map skills, history
  • Math – Decimals , grids, ordered pairs of numbers, addition, subtraction, estimating, time, distance, measurement
  • Earth Science - rocks, plants, environmental features
  • Language Arts, writing in logs, written descriptions of events, descriptive writing, poetry
  • Technology – GPS device, digital camera, presentation software, tape recorder
  • Reading – Informational reading of logs, directions, and clues
  • Problem Solving, Teamwork, Perseverance, Cooperation
elementary school uses
Elementary School Uses
  • Elementary students will learn about latitude and longitude using the GPS receivers and Google Earth and will track travel bugs around the country. Students in 3rd grade studying South Carolina could request that their travel bug visit several sites in South Carolina.
  • Students will work in groups and use GPS receivers to solve a mystery (historical, literary, scientific, etc.). The treasure hunt will lead students from one cache to another as they gather clues. This activity integrates math skills with a variety of subjects.
middle school uses
Middle School Uses
  • Teams locate on-site caches hidden by their teacher. Map reading skills as well as compass reading can be included in the lesson.
  • Students write historical fiction stories after researching important locations around the country (Lewis and Clark, Trail of Tears, Underground Railroad). Students can use the geocaching website to identify important landmarks.
  • Plant a travel bug in a cache with instructions to travel to the historical locations.
  • In Math, Geometry students can use the receivers to measure distances and determine slope.
  • Have groups visit locations on campus and make observations about plants in those areas.

6th Grade Plant Observations

  • Groups visit 4 locations on campus and make observations about plants in that area
high school uses
High School Uses
  • Determining Coordinate Positions and Distance with a GPS Handheld Receiver: In this activity, students investigate the minimal number of satellite signals needed to determine a 2-dimensional position (latitude and longitude) on the earth. 
  • Students in technology or law education classes research the use of new GPS technologies for tracking people.
  • JROTC students use GPS receivers to mark
  • areas of a trail.
  • Students photograph areas in the community
  • and use geotagging to post photos to
  • Google Earth.
determine slope
Determine Slope
  • Students used the GPS receivers to determine the slope of a hill behind Ridge View High School.
discus research hunt
DISCUS Research Hunt
  • Students hunted for research questions and DISCUS clues for a unit on the Odyssey.
staff development
Staff Development
  • Have groups of teachers participate in team building activities.
gps instructional kit
GPS Instructional Kit
  • Garmin ETrex Legend GPS handhelds with cases
  • Garmin MapSource software
  • Geocoins, travel bugs, and other items to place in caches
  • Cache boxes and box labels
  • Log books for caches, cache stickers
  • Digital camera for photographing the finds

MapSource Demo

lessons learned
Lessons Learned
  • Have one GPS receiver for every two or three students.
  • Schedule a backup date in case of bad weather.
  • If you’re programming the coordinates, use several receivers to get an accurate reading.
  • Try out your course ahead of time to make sure that there are no problems.
  • Carry extra batteries with you.
  • Take photos to document the activity.
  • If an entire class is going out, divide the class up into three or four groups. Have parents or other school personnel go with groups.
more lessons learned
More Lessons Learned
  • Show the students the basic operations before going outside.
  • Clarify rules before going outside – no running, watch for traffic, etc.
  • Meet outside and wait while receivers acquire satellites.
  • If this is a multistage activity, make sure the groups don’t run into each other. Three groups with three locations works well.
  • When planting a geocache or travel bug, make sure that you leave the items in a safe location.
  • Start early in the school year if you’re planning to follow the travels of a travel bug.
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching (Paperback)
  • Geocaching -
  • BookCrossing –
  • Groundspeak -
  • Nova Find Your Latitude and Longitude -
  • GeoMystery Project -
  • Science Spot Learning with GPS:
  • Waymarking:
  • Letterboxing for Kids -
  • GPS at the Smithsonian -
  • Global Positioning of History Lessons -$4
  • Why Teach GPS -
  • Garmin ETrex Handout -