Pirate Geocachin’ with Second Grade Sprogs–ARRR!

What do pirates, 2nd graders, gps units, and math all have in common? Pirate geocaching, of course!

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with a great bunch of 2nd graders during summer school. This group loved technology, and so I decided to organize a Math review using our GPS units. Since it was summer time, and we were reading stories about pirates and the ocean, the theme naturally lent itself to pirates! Plus pirates are really fun!!

So, here’s how it all went down:

1) I organized the caches the students needed to find around the pirate theme. At each cache, students needed to solve a 2nd grade math problem to know what to bring back to the “Captain.” A big thanks to Joani Sotherden, Kathy Smith and Diane Rose for this part of the project! They helped me come up with the problems for each cache.

Download cache questions (Print on Avery size 8164 labels).

Here are pictures of the caches and their contents:

Next, Meg Swecker joined me one afternoon to help find great hiding spots for the six caches around South Salem Elementary. We programed in each location on six gps units.

Judy Fisher (the other second grade teacher) and I rounded up some adults to help lead each group.  We also organized our two 2nd grade classes into six different teams of four students each.  Then morning before the event, we hid the caches in their spots.  A clipboard was made for each team that consisted of:


  • a ziplock baggie (for the loot)
  • a list of caches to find (in a different order for each team)
  • scrap paper
  • the rules and tips and tricks and job responsibilities
  • a pencil

Download Directions and Tips and Tricks

Download Group Order

Right before we went out to do the activity, we gave the students pirate hats (free from Long John Silvers), set up the scenario, gave some basic rules, and assigned teams.

Each team was given their clipboard.  The adults quickly showed their group of  students how to use the gps units, and they were off!

It was so much fun! Everyone had a blast, and I was amazed to see students who struggled to complete work at their desks take lead rolls as they trekked around the schoolyard solving math problems.

A big thanks to all those people who showed up to learn about geocaching or to lend a hand, including…

Co-Teacher: Judy Fisher (she also supplied the awesome pirate hats)
Group Leaders: Judy’s son–“Mr. Fisher,” Hunter Routt, Sherri Tompkins, Debbie Stanley
Photographer :  Diane Rose
Math Problems:  Joani Sotherden, Kathy Smith and Diane Rose
Partner-in-Crime:  Meg Swecker (who’s always up for an adventure, pirate or otherwise)

Here are some other fun pirate resources:

Talk Like a Pirate

Magic Treehouse: Pirates at Past Noon by Mary Pope Osbourne

Do Pirates Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker

(This book is great for a writing prompt, especially  writing asking and telling sentences).


Last weekend, the Big Lick Geobug was sent on it’s way to Ms. Deyenberg’s Class in Alberta, Canada! If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, then read this article on geocaching.

Sending the Big Lick Geobug on its way…. on PhotoPeach (Pictures by Meg Swecker)

Basically, the idea is that our Big Lick Geobug will travel from cache to cache with geocachers…all the way to Canada. It will be a slow process, possibly, since some caches aren’t found for weeks at a time….but hopefully some geocachers can take it long distances. Meanwhile, classes in Salem and Roanoke County (with Meg Swecker) will track it’s movements!

Ms. Deyenberg is doing the same thing too. Her 5th Grade class is sending Flop the Other Dorothy Dalgliesh Dolphin to us! You can read about the geobugs below (and follow them too)!

Big Lick Geobug
Flop the Other Dorothy Dalgliesh Dolphin

It’s a long way to Alberta, Canada, so they might not make it, but we are keeping our fingers crossed!! Following the geobugs as they travel will help our students practice map skills….and Math (as they calculate how far each bug has traveled). Here’s a map with their starting and ending points:

View Geobugs! Map in a larger map

These bugs have the summer to travel, and hopefully will have moved some by the time we come back in the Fall. If you would like to follow along next year, let me know. I can come show your class how to geocache (even tie it with a topic you are teaching), and make sure you receive updates anytime one of the geobugs moves! I think we have some 2nd grade teachers already who will be following along!


I found a new hobby!  It combines two of my favorite things: nature and technology!!  It’s basically high-tech treasure hunting.  Who can’t get excited about THAT?!

Here’s how it works.

  • go to http://www.geocaching.com and sign up for a free account
  • search for caches in a specific area (there are 4 at Greenhill park and many more in the area)
  • find the coordinates for them and read the descriptions of them (you may also want to look at the hints).
  • program the coordinates into your gps
  • go hunting.  You will probably want to take a pen/pencil with you.

If you find a cache, there are a few rules.

  • If there are items in the cache, you can only take one if you leave a different one.  No food of course.
  • Always hide the cache back where you find it.  Make sure you hide it so that it is just a difficult (or more difficult) than it was when you found it.
  • Sign and date the log book.  (you’ll probably want to log the find on the geocaching site too).

So, what does this have to do with the TEACHING with Technology blog?  Well, kids love treasure hunts!!  And what better way to get them outside and moving than a treasure hunt!  So here’s how you’d do it in the classroom.

  • Figure out a topic (I’ll list some ideas in a minute).
  • Hide caches (with puzzles or clues or questions) around the school yard.
  • Use the gps systems to make the location of the caches.
  • Send kids (groups of 4 would work) to go find the caches and solve the problems.

I had the opportunity to observe a group of third grades geocaching last Friday.  The teacher, Meggen Devlin, developed a Science Lesson that incorporated the gps systems.  She had students find hidden caches full of pictures different types of “trash.”  Students retrieved the pictures, and then based on what they had learned from a previous part of the lesson, used the pictures to make predictions about the rate in which the different items they found (all types of materials) decompose.  The gps section of the lesson was just a part of a bigger lesson, but it sure got the kids excited and active, and make them think!

I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with fellow ITRT, and expert geocacher, Debbie Newman.  Debbie has created geocaching units to help students review for SOL tests.  You can view some of her resources here.

Finally, our very own Victoria Salvat tried geocaching with Kindergartners!  She had parents help with the activity.  She hid Easter eggs full of sight words, and had students use the gps units to find them, and then read the words to the parent.  Here’s a video from her blog!

So what are some other ideas for using geocaching in the classroom?  Here are some ideas adapted from From: Jen Deyenberg on Twitter (@jdeyenberg):

  • Have students create shapes by marking waypoints for each corner.  Create a grid map showing the shapes and waypoints.
  • Hide caches with coins or other math items.  Have students solve math problems and bring back the correct answer.
  • Have students measure objects at each cache (pencils or some other object).  Have them find the average length.
  • Each cache has a clue to answer an ultimate problem.
  • Waypoint the corners of a space and then find the perimeter of it.
  • Have them find a type of triange at each cache.  When they are finished, have them sort by properties.

Some other ideas:

  • Have students find certain trees in the school yard.  Have the decide if it is deciduous or coniferous.
  • Hide objects dealing with a famous person.  Have the decide which person. (ex. peanut for G.W. Carver, baseball for Jackie Robinson, and so on.
  • Geo-Bingo!  Have students match pictures of items at their caches with a bingo card they carry.  I think we are going to do something like this with careers…matching careers with tools…in a Guidance class.

If you get fancy, you may want to place a travel coin or a geobug in a cache, and track it with your students!  Or create your own cache, and track who visits, and where they are from!

We have a classroom set of GPS units that you can use in the classroom!  Just let your librarian or I know, and well be glad to make sure the set is delivered to you.  I would love to help you set up and run the activity as well.

Does anyone have anymore great ideas?  If so, please post below!

Image: ‘Slightly north of here