Geocaching was used at Papatoetoe High School to strengthen students’ ‘learning to learn’ capabilities, and deepen teachers’ understandings of effective teaching.
"In our school, the curriculum supports students to become capable and discerning users of digital information."
Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants embark on a hunt to locate containers called ‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’. A Global Positioning System (GPS) or mobile device, and other navigational techniques are used.
Teaching staff at Papatoetoe High School introduced Geocaching to junior secondary students as one of a number of projects they used to explore characteristics of effective teaching. They used a set of agreed principles to help design the geocaching project.
Curriculum coherence, timetable flexibility, as well as emphasis on creativity, innovation, problem solving, collaboration, and collegiality were other concepts that guided the design and implementation of geocaching.
Using geocaching with students
Before the treasure hunt began, students researched the history of geocaching and its uses. They familiarised themselves with different types of caches and strategies for deciphering clues. The treasure hunt took place over three days.
Students worked in groups to find local landmarks. They had to answer clues using an unlabelled map. Each group started at 3 minute intervals and teachers were positioned around the course. Students were required to submit text answers and picture messages of certain landmarks. Students spent the remainder of the day familiarising themselves with GPS technology and tools in readiness for day 2.
Staff created and hid geocaches around the Auckland Domain for the students to locate. Students were given 10 geocache locations with hints. Each cache included a code that students would text to staff to identify their location. Students had to find statues and send photographs of themselves posing with the statue. They also had to solve puzzle caches and text in their answers.
The final day was set up like ‘The Amazing Race’ with activities that took students around North Head and downtown Auckland. The same technology was used as in previous days, but new terrain and more difficult clues provided a challenging, competitive, and engaging climate.
Planning and participating in this project provided many opportunities for staff to think differently about teaching and learning. Teachers began to establish a shared understanding of effective teaching strategies and a growing interest in how to model key competencies in their learning programmes.
Students had opportunities to develop key competencies as they became actively engaged in the project.