GPS Project

As a fun Easter activity I hid plastic Easter eggs all over the school yard and marked their co-ordinates on the GPS.  Each group had six eggs they had to find.  The catch was, inside the eggs, instead of sugary, unhealthy treats the students discovered exercises or “eggersizes!”  After they found the egg they had a task to perform outside.  They had a lot of fun with it.  Instead of sitting around eating snacks, candy, and being very unhealthy, we were outside, active, and having a great time!
It’s spring and while some people are cleaning out their yards or garage, geocachers are out checking on caches to see how they survived the winter.  When you hide a cache to go on the network there is a level of commitment involved in checking on it and making sure it is dry, hidden properly, and not causing any damage to the surrounding area.
I have 8 caches hidden.  Yesterday the snow finally melted and I headed out to check on my geocaches.  I’d had some reports in the logs that things were missing or damaged.
Flip for Baker logs:
I went prepared with new cache containers, new log sheets, new pencils, and my GPS to check co-ordinates.
I had reports that one of my micro caches (about the size of your little finger just had a log sheet, but no container, sure enough, I found the log, very wet from the recent snow. I replaced the log and container and tucked it back where it belonged.
I had to replace a few more full logs, and several caches were just fine (they must have been good hides in the first place!)
When I got to the cache Saskatchewan it was completely gone, but I had my new tennis ball cache ready to go. I hid it in the lower branches of the tree so a “muggle” would think it was just a ball caught in the tree if they spotted it, but a geocacher would have a second look at it.
My last cache of the day was Flip for Baker which had several logs posted that no one could find it. I had a new cache, a plastic lock and lock container covered in camouflage duct tape (you can find it in the hunting and fishing section of hardware stores!), ready to go. When I got there, to my surprise, it was right where it should be. I had set the co-ordinates on a cloudy day, and I think this was sending people off in the wrong direction. I marked the cache, uploaded new co-ordinates, and it was found almost immediately!
Geocaching is a great hobby, but remember if you hide a cache take care of it or it just turns into litter.  Happy caching!

I signed up for the Read Around the Planet collaboration project on the CAP (Collaboration Around the Planet) Space Website.  I was paired up with an educator from Louisiana to share some learning and literature with.  The other educator was a science teacher learning about fossils and wanted to theme our video conference around dinosaurs.

This reminded me of a geocaching project I had seen in the Educaching resource.  The idea was to read the picture book, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.  It is about Waterhouse Hawkins, an artist, who created the first life sized models of dinosaurs based on fossils.

The students then go out geocaching and collect “fossils” from the each cache to create their own 2D dinosaur skeletons.

This is where I started to expand the project from it’s original idea.  The student used a collection of dinosaur bones to build their diagrams, then I gave them modeling clay to create 3D models based on their 2D diagrams.  This was a difficult shift in perspective for them.  They had to add depth and dimension, and modify their designs so that they would actually stand up!  Scaling the dinosaur down from a 11 1/2 x 17 inch diagram to a 10 cm model (we’ve been working on metric to imperial conversion so I often use mixed measurement systems to have them relate back and forth)  was very difficult for the students, they often exaggerated one part of the dinosaur such as the head or legs.

I always like my students to have an audience for their work so our Read Around the Planet collaboration was the perfect opportunity to show off our creations, and explain the process of our creations.  The presentation by the class in Louisiana allowed us to enhance our learning by looking at some of the science behind fossils and how they are formed.  Their presentation complimented our learning nicely.

What so you get when you take 24 grade 5 students, 5 parent volunteers, 1 student teacher, and 1 slightly crazy classroom teacher and lock them in a school over night? You get one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher.

On Thursday, January 28 my grade 5 class slept over at the school to video conference with the world. We worked around a Winter Olympics theme breaking into countries to compete in sporting events, used the Wii to play Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics, and went geocaching in the dark!

We started by Skyping with two classes in Canada. The idea was to start close to home and talk to other Canadians about the excitement building around the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver in February. We spoke with @Hafy2009, Jodi Hafenbrak of Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She was one of the Canadians I traveled with to Brazil in November for the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum.  Then it was @zbpipe, Zoe Branigan Pipe, in Hamilton, Ontario.  We Skype with her class quite often, and she was the first teacher I ever videoconferenced with!
This got the kids off to a great start, and two VC’s down during school time, before the craziness of staying late after school started! Part way through the afternoon I got an email from my parents, who have been in Hawaii.  They are both retired teachers.  I thought Hawaii would be a great stop as we headed west with our Around the World trip so I gave my Mom a quick Skype call and we connected!  In a happy accident moment, I managed to plan our sleepover on Pajama Day at school, so the kids were very prepared for our sleepover, and wore their PJs (me too!) all day!
After school we got into some of our activities, including incorporating the Winter Olympics theme.  We painted our faces and made flags for our team countries.  We had teams from Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, and Great Britain.  They students were very patriotic.  As the host of the event, I was of course Team Canada!
Some of our Olympic events were in the gym, or hallway.  We had a figure skating event, which was the Michael Jackson Thriller Dance, which we learned and performed at Halloween.  Each country had to perform and see who could best remember or make up new steps the fastest and work as a team.  We raced bobsleds (in the form of two students sitting on scooter boards) down the hallway, it was one of the highlights for me.  The students loved it!
Other events we played on the Wii, including ski jumping and curling! We used the game Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics
We met with @robinthailand, Rob Newberry, and his class from Thailand.  They were shy, but we talked about weather, different sports in the two countries, food, and beaches!
After speaking with Thailand it was time to run around outside! We went geocaching in the dark. It was our “torch” relay. Each cache was a different city across Canada that the torch visited and they had to name the province or territory it was in. They used their flashlights or “torches” to guide the way
Next on the agenda was a Skype call from Austraila. Rob Sibaglia, an IT specialist met with us, and had a colleague read us our bedtime story which was about how the kangaroo got its tail!
Just before bed we got a second call from @zbpipe.  It was Zoe’s second time to talk with us, but this time she was in Philadelphia!  Nothing like having the same person meet with use from two different countries!  The students thought it was fantastic! Then it was off to bed! The kids did not sleep….well maybe about 2 1/2 hours! The girls’ room was full of giggling and gossiping. It was especially interesting when they thought I was asleep. The boys’ room was full of, well, methane!
We even remembered to brush our teeth, and the parents were really great about organizing healthy snacks, fruit, cheese, crackers, and meat! There was a healthy supper of lasagna, salad, veggies, bread, meatballs, rice, and perogies! Not all of the toothbrushes made it back home, I found this casualty on the hallway floor!
The next morning at 5:30 I was up and energetic, but the kids were a bit…sleepy! With the worst bedhead I’ve ever seen, smeared face paint, and questions about when they got pancakes, we met with @gillpenny, Gillian Penny, and Gavinburn Primary School from Scotland. This was the one connection that didn’t use Skype. We used Glow, the Scottish VC Intranet system. @olliebray worked very hard behind the scenes to get everything going on both ends. Thanks to my tech department for opening ports and solving a few last-minute snags. We had a bit of sound trouble, but we worked around it, and did get everything connected in the end. We shared all about the Olympics as Gavinburn is working on a big unit all about the Winter Olympics and are using Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics as well! There may have even been some curling rivalry talk!
After pancakes and some very Canadian maple syrup, we had our last connection of the day with @bligoben, Mags from Wales and the year 6 class. We walked all about weather and what we had in common, and what was very different. My students enjoyed hearing that even students in Wales like Justin Bieber, a Canadian Pop Singer!
After cleaning up and sending all the kids home, it was time for me to head to Vulcan (the town, not the planet) for a professional development/teacher meeting day. It was kind of a blur, with a great deal of coffee. I did bring the Wii and Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics with me so other teachers could try it out and several plan to use it with their class. We were looking at it for measuring with decimals to thousandths. Thousandths are a hard concept, and timing of races was almost the only context we could think of that they were used, which our students would find relevant. Not only do Grade 5 student have to use and understand decimal places to the thousandths, but they have to order and compare them as well. What better way to order and compare that collect race times on the luge, bobsled, skiing, or snowboarding runs, then compare and order them to see who won, and the order of the competitors!
The night was a huge success, thank-you to all the parents, our Skype and VC partners from Around the World, my student teacher Mitchell for putting up with the boys all night, and to the students for having a fun, safe time!

Geocaching is a fantastic hobby!  It gets you outdoors and takes you to places you may never have found or even knew existed!

You know you are geocaching when:

1) Your arm is stuck in a wall, fishing around in deep dark corners.  (Note: Don’t wear your cream coat while geocaching…)


2) You are staring at the back of signs and under lamp posts in a foreign country. (This one is at the Trevi Fountain)


3) You are being questioned as to why you are loitering in front of a government building by security. (really happened outside of the German Embassy – they had machine guns)


4) You are giving signs, posts, and garbage cans the awkward reach around hug in a piazza full of people. (This one was a great find on the Spanish Steps – muggles everywhere!)


5) You are looking over, under, and around everything! (There is a joke here about looking over the wall for the Scots…I had just visited Hadrian’s Villa!)


6) There is a point when after sticking your hand in all of the strange places you can find when it’s time to give up – that’s the depressing moment. (Fail whale!)fail!

7) Occasionally there is a barrier to progress – wildlife, a big fence, or just a strange phobia (seriously didn’t find the cache because of the peacock…not good with peacocks!)


8 ) You are frantically trying to find something to write with to sign a log –  after 4 dead pens, just get a pencil! (Four pens in two days….there was a plan to steal one from a bank)


9) You’ve carried a doll with neon blue hair to two different continents just to keep a little girl, you’ve never met, happy.  (It’s name is George!)


10) You carry a GPS everywhere – there are caches everywhere! (Even on top of Mt. Vesuvius!)


P1010084I’ve posted many times about how I use GPS in the classroom, but I’ve never broken down how to set up a straightforward GPS activity for students.





What you need:

P1010080Handheld (not car!) GPS receivers – I like the Garmin etrex Venture HC.  It has a colour display, geocaching mode, it’s very durable, waterproof –ish (rain is fine, but don’t drop it in a pond), and it’s bright yellow.  The kids have a harder time misplacing something that is bright yellow!   I have 6.  With 27 students this breaks down to 4 or 5 in a group.



P1010081A camera for each group.  I use  a combination of flip and still digital cameras, whatever is around school







P1010079A clipboard for each group.  This way they can collect their clues and keep track of what caches they have found and what they have left to discover.







P1010066Caching containers!  I’ve written about some creative containers here.  The standard is just a plastic container, either spray painted or with camouflage tape (shop in the hunting section – it will be there!) to blend in to the surroundings.






cash cacheAn idea for clues.  Each cache has to have something in it for the kids to collect.  This is where you can tie geocaching into almost any subject.  Last week I had cace examplecolour coded clues to Canadian Animals.  Each cache had six coloured pieces of paper in it.  If you were the yellow group you collected each yellow clue and tried to determine what animal you had.  Each group had a different animal.  I’ve made caches full of money, with a decimal problem on the lid.  The students had to solve the problem and bring the answer back in money.  I added baggies to the clipboard to keep them organized that day.



Once you have clues in all of the caches you are ready to go and hide the caches around the school yard.  This is the fun part.  I often get students from other classes to come and help me.  You would be surprised with the creative places they come up with.

P1010068 P1010070






P1010077As you hide the caches, you need to mark the location using the GPS.  On the main menu you choose the mark function, give the cache a name (I usually just use letters), and confirm the co-ordinates.




P1010083 I use mapping topographical mapping software (a very simple, user friendly version comes with most GPS units) to download the co-ordinates to the computer.  Then I plug in the other five receivers one at a time and upload the co-ordinates to each one.  It takes about 5 minutes to load to all of the receivers.





GPS groups I set up groups for the students.  Each person has a job, and they rotate each time we go out.  They each get a chance to be the navigator (use the GPS), photographer (use the camera), recorder (track clues on the clipboard), and clue opener/replacer (open and put the containers back)

GPS receivers are a useful tool to enhance learning in the classroom.  I’ve written all about geocaching in the classroom, but I wanted to share more uses for the GPS which I am exploring this year.

P10006111) Travel Bugs – Travel Bugs, or trackables are objects or coins which move from geocache to geocache.  They are logged on the geocaching website and you can see all of the places they have been.  It is a great way to calculate distance, learn about geography in other places, and connect with other cachers.  I have sent out two with my class.  Flip, the prairie dolphin, has a goal of getting to the ocean.  He’s been all through British Columbia and up into Alaska.  Flop, Flip’s brother, is headed to Virgina.  I’ve connected with two fellow GPS enthusiasts (@elemitrt @mswecker) who have sent The Big Lick Travel Bug to Lethbridge to visit my class.  We’ll see which one gets there first.  Click on the names of the travel bugs to see where they’ve been.  The travel bug in the photo has a goal of getting to the Prime Meridan, I’m going to use it to teach my students about longitude.  Another interesting trackable is the Canadian Geocoin, which I picked up in Lethbridge and moved 5988km to Dominica, my students will watch where it goes next.

2) Tracks – When you move your GPS can record your path and produce a diagram of your movement.  There have been some neat large scale projects of creating images on a global scale – this video shows an amazing example. In the classroom, sending the students out into the school yard to create tracks for an art project or to create a given shape, such as an isosceles triangle in a geometry unit, gives a kinesthetic, hands on approach to teaching a concept.

3) Geotagging – Use your GPS to mark the location of local sounds, specific to your area. has an interactive Geotagging Map that you can explore to find sounds from all over the world and add your own local touch to.

4) Podcaching/GPS storytelling – This is like a guided tour at a tourist site.  There is more information at this site.  Students can listen to particular tracks at a marked location to learn content, get instructions to their next locations, or the guided tour can give them clues to move along a set path.  I would recommend making one yourself first, then having the students create them.  They could be wet up around a given theme, such as exploring a local pond, or they could be a story telling exercise, such as a choose your own adventure by having choices of tracks to take people various ways depending on their choice.  This can be integrated with the GPS easily as your GPS can mark locations to listen to specific tracks.

5) Seek and Spell – A neat Iphone app.  Using GPS users have to move around a field and collect letters to spell words.  It is designed to challenge other users and see who can spell the most words or longest words.  I don’t have an Iphone, and I haven’t tried this app, but I already envision adapting it to handheld GPS receivers.  If you mark 26 locations around the school yard and have a stamp or stickers of each letter at a location student can spell their own words, or given words by visiting the marked locations.

6) QR Codes – QR codes are black and white squares, similar to UPC codes that can be scanned to gain information.  The GPS can mark the location of a code, they find the code, scan it and answer the question.  You can even have audio set up for each location with an Ipod to give clues to the question.  This site has a great example of how they can be used.  This site can create QR codes.  You can decode QR codes with almost any camera phone, both Iphones can blackberries have an app.   This site has a free download which works with most camera phones.  In a high school where most students have phones – use them!  Not so much for me in an elementary school (although there are some). I’m hoping the new Itouch, which is supposed to have a built in camera will do the trick for me.

Great GPS/Geocaching Resources: – the main site for geocaching

Geocaching Wiki Glog – a great collection of ideas, resources, and links.  Join and add to it!

GPS Presentation – by @thekyleguy – a GPS enthusiast

Tina Coffey’s Blog – she uses GPS and has great integration ideas – be sure to check out pirate caching!

Dr. Alice Christie’s Geocaching/GPS guide for Educators

Unique Geocaching Containers

Geocacher University – a great resource site

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