Monday, November 7, 2011

Geocaching for Inquiry Based Learning

     A few months ago, I wrote an article on how to use geocaching in education. For those not familiar with geocaching, it essentially involves using GPS devices to locate hidden containers. The containers themselves rarely contain anything of great value, but fans of geocaching enjoy the journey in finding the hidden objects. Often, you are taken to interesting locations which you may have otherwise overlooked. 

     I started geocaching while traveling back to Canada during the summer and have been doing it regularly since then. I quickly recognized the potential of using geocaching in the classroom but, until recently, had only done it as a hobby. Last week, I worked with our Open Minds Coordinator to create our first educational geocache to help our grade 4 students learn about the biodiversity of the mangroves of Pasir Ris Park in Singapore. 

     Being that our school is an IB school and the Open Minds is all about experiential, hands on learning, we wanted to create a geocache which encouraged inquiry rather than focusing on just finding hidden objects. We set up a multi-stage geocache called Pasir Ris Biodiversity in which students need to use their senses to explore the flora and fauna of the area, record their learning, collaborate and ask questions to enhance their learning. The cache is also set up so that regular geocachers could just find the hidden container without being required to complete all of the activities that are designed for students. 

     Geocaching itself can teach students a number of important skills such as navigation and can be set up to incorporate a number of curriculum goals. Many geocaches require students to solve puzzles which is great for incorporating math and logic. However, few geocaches are designed with inquiry based learning in mind. Hopefully the geocache we created can serve as an example of how  to use geocaching for inquiry based learning and we will see more of these types of geocaches in the future.