Real Life Treasure Hunting
When I first heard about the sport of Geocaching , I could not quite get my head around it. What? Go around looking for treasures that people have left you the exact coordinates for? How is that fun? What’s the point? If you already know where the treasure is, then where is the mystery?
Here is the thing: Geocaching relies on the fact that exact coordinates are not as exact as it may seem. The coordinates get you most of the way to finding a hidden treasure, but it’s that last bit that makes it fun. I spent 20 plus years in the elementary and high school classroom. Here are the elements of Geocaching that make it a terrific hobby for kids.
Kids Being Tech Savvy
In order to Geocache, you need a phone with an app installed. There are several on the market, but they are all very similar. They range from free to about $5. Kids will need to learn something about latitude and longitude and how to navigate the app. They will also learn a bit about calibrating the app to their phone. There will be times when they may need to use a traditional compass as well. Like most things, apps do not work perfectly all the time. You need to be thoughtful and realize that apps are a tool that needs to be controlled by a human.
Kids Respecting Where We Live
There is an unwritten rule in Geocaching. Leave the area you are searching in better than you found it. The rally cry for this attitude is “Cache in, trash out”. The idea is that caching led you into a place, and you can take some trash with you as you leave. Whether you are caching in a park, wilderness, the beach, mountains or the inner city, take trash out. It costs nothing to bring a plastic bag, fill it, and then place in your trash when you get home. And it makes the world better.
Kids Cultivating Patience
Once the coordinates have led you to with 30 feet or so of your cache, the problem solving begins. Most caches are hidden really well. They will not be obvious, usually. You have to be patient and problem solve. Look down, under, over, up, around, to the side, from above, from below…you get the idea. It may take awhile. And, you have to be prepared that the cache is no longer there. Sometimes, people who are not Geocachers, “mugglers”, find caches by chance and take them. If you notice this, be sure to leave an online note, so that the next person does not waste their time.
Kids Seeing Things Differently
Geocaching takes you to places you would not go otherwise. You will see places of your town or city, empty spaces, and natural vistas that you did not even know were nearby. It also helps you to be more flexible in how you problem solve and interact with the world. Places that seemed useless or “ugly”, are now part of a global game that many appreciate. Places that seemed “not my problem”, are now places that have touched your life in a small way. Over time, these experiences change your attitude, and how you see things.
Kids Exercising By Proxy
Not every kid loves sports or going to the gym. Geocaching forces you to walk or hike a lot more than you would. And the best part…you are so fixated on finding the treasure, you do not even notice that hill, or those rocks you are climbing, or how hot it is. You are on a mission.! In this way, caching is a way to get some exercise without “officially" getting some exercise. If you have kids who are reluctant to move around, geocaching may be a way to get them out without them even knowing it. Pretty slick, eh moms?
Kids Enjoying Family
It is really easy to get caught up in the routine of school and activities. Caching can take as long as you like. When you select a cache to go visit, you can decide how hard, far and difficult the hunt is. If you all work together, you can pick easier caches for younger kids and multi-level caches for older kids. Kids can be independent while still being with their parents and siblings. Caching gives everyone something to do, at the level they are comfortable with.
Kids Logging Successes
One of the great things about the Geocaching website, is that you can log all your finds. Each time you get back from an adventure, you can log each one. You can tell if you found it, discovered it, did not find it, left a treasure, took a treasure, upload pictures and more. After awhile, your geocaching log becomes a prize possession. There are people out there who have found thousands of caches. How many will you find?
Katie is a former special education teacher in Los Angeles. She is now a maternity, baby, and child photographer.