GEOCACHING IN SHERINGHAM PARK
Norfolk County Council, in the UK, working with the National Trust and a school.
WHO WAS MEANT TO DO IT?
A small sample group of school children.
WHAT DID THEY DO?
Working closely with the Learning Officer of the National Trust owned Sheringham Park, a pilot geocaching activity day was planned. A small group of school pupils aged 13-14 years was invited to test the method of delivery in preparation for a geocaching project on a larger scale (which will be reported separately).
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Sheringham Park already had eight official geocaches registered with Geocaching.com. The park does not currently actively promote the caches but was keen to explore the potential of geocaching as an on-going activity; something that they could deliver regularly to schools in particular. The park works with around 3000 school children each year and has a special environmental area, learning centre and orienteering course.
Sheringham Park’s Learning Officer set up a sample geocaching trail which included one of the official caches, so that a Coast Alive geocoin could be placed and tracked by the school. Other (non-Coast Alive) caches were set up along a trail with associated activities to help the children learn more about the environment, about the area and about each other.
Accompanied by teachers, volunteers and the Learning Officer, pupils used GPS units to navigate their way along the trail and take part in the associated activities at each cache. They had clues and a map of the park with the points marked on for assistance in finding the caches but also to encourage map-reading.
Prior to the activity, the Learning Officer checked the locations of the real geocaches based on the co-ordinates online. He then set up three trial caches fairly close to the Learning Centre for the students to practice using the GPS units and to get involved in some hands-on activity. For this test geocaching activity, they estimated 3 children per GPS unit.
The plan for the pilot geocache activity day was:
10:00 Arrival and introduction in Learning Centre (this included introduction about Sheringham Park and Coast Alive). Deciding groups.
10:45 Outside – switch on GPS units and learn how to use them – troubleshooting.
11:00 Start navigating to first trial cache. Take part in activity, Harry the Hedgehog, to focus attention, adding humour, breaking the ice.
11:20 Navigate to second trial cache. Take part in activity, Hot Chocolate, by starting a fire without matches in order to boil some water to make hot chocolate. Good for teamwork, practical/survival skills, taking on a challenge.
12:20 Navigate to third trial cache. Take part in activity – Stumped. Measuring tree trunks to establish how old they are. Good for learning about the environment.
13:30 Introduction to the afternoon session
13:45 Each group ventured out to find real geocaches. Good for teamwork, communication, map-reading, motivation via competitive nature of the task. This theme subtly ran through the day because each of the groups was competing to find caches or complete tasks first.
15:45 Teams arrive back at Learning Centre. Short evaluation of the day with feedback from all participants including teachers.
HOW MANY PARTICIPATED?
Sample group of 8 pupils (aged 13-14) accompanied by 2 teachers.
DID IT WORK?
This small pilot activity was carried out as planned and comments from the students about the experience show that they enjoyed the practical activities and the challenge or feeling of finding a cache. The evaluation of their their experience showed:
- None of the students had heard of geocaching before.
- Half the group would go geocaching again.
- Three students didn’t know if they would go geocaching again and one definitely wouldn’t go again.
- Half the group agreed that the GPS units were easy to use.
- Three students disagreed that the GPS units were easy to use.
- Six students enjoyed being out in the fresh air.
- All students agreed they had a good time; five strongly agreed.
WAS IT SUCCESSFUL?
As a pilot geocaching project, due to the proactive and organised attitude of the officers and teachers involved, the day was run smoothly and effectively.
This was helped by the fact that the group was small. It would have been more difficult with a larger group.
Delivering the activity with a small group allowed them to get a feel for what they would need to do for a larger group. They feel they now have a good idea of the structure of the day but there is a lot to fit in and they would need to manage a larger number of students as effectively as possible, making sure that there is at least one teacher per group of 3 students.
They felt 3 students is a good number for a group.
The GPS units were quite “technical” and they felt it would not be easy to understand for younger age groups. The technological concept of geocaching in general, coupled with a fairly large distance being covered on the ground, they felt that this might be a bit much for younger children and felt that secondary school age is more appropriate.
The demographic of the group was quite different to what they expected. Most of the group seemed very unfamiliar with the concept of “outdoor activity” and the “countryside” and most certainly weren’t dressed for cold, wet and muddy surroundings.
The day was very insightful pilot and was really useful in deciding how they might manage a larger event.