Besides being a great family activity (all you need is a GPS) we've started to think of ways to make Geocaching a learning activity. One thing we think would be great when Sadie gets a little older is sending out "Travel Bugs." Travel Bugs are small items with a code (kind of like dog tags) on them that are moved from geocache to geocache. People create Travel Bugs and register them online and then drop them off in a geocache. Other geocachers pick them up and log them online and then drop them off at a different geocache. Travel Bugs can go out without specific instructions or they can have goals (like to see the Atlantic Ocean for a dolphin Travel Bug, or to travel to a certain country).
We think it would be a great addition to studying geography when Sadie gets older. We could send Travel Bugs with certain goals and then learn all that we can about the places that they go on the way. One idea we might try is sending out rubber ducks as Travel Bugs and giving each duck a goal. One duck's goal might be to see the Atlantic Ocean, one would be trying to get to the Indian Ocean, one would wants to travel around the Pacific Ocean, and one may try to get to Antarctica (there are even geocaches there!).
Even creating geocaches and putting them out can be quite the little project. It took up quite a bit of time yesterday. First we put together the stuff that was going to go into the cache (tiny plastic toy horses we picked out at Michael's). We picked a lock box (like tupperware) for the cache and then spray painted it with camo paint so that it wouldn't stand out (it started out as a purple and clear lock box). I did make a little heart stencil out of cardboard so that the camo would still be Sadie-themed. Then we wrote the cache name and the geocaching website on the side and top and set out to find a spot.
The next challenge was getting a good GPS coordinate reading in the forest. It took several tries (we would get a reading, leave and play at a nearby playground and then come back and see if the new reading matched... because of all the trees blocking the satellites it took several tries). Once we got consistent coordinates we headed home and submitted the cache online.
Now we sit back and watch as people log their visits and write little notes. It seems a little silly, but everyone in the family is excited about this! It's great that it's something so many generations can have fun doing together (we have four generations that go out together)!