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!

Sea Questions with Mrs. Z’s Kids!

Meg Swecker is at it again! She’s currently diving in Mexico and at the same time, communicating with students in schools back in the United States using VoiceThead. On this trip, Mrs. Zamorski’s students participated! Here’s the VoiceThread they made:

In Roanoke County, students in Kindergarten are learning Spanish from students in Mexico thanks to Meg. They also used Voicethread, and Meg’s awesome new Ocean Studies Wiki for this project. I love that she was able to get students in Mexico to help record Spanish Words. Check it out here.

Kicking off the Year with Fun Class Projects

Looking for a way to bring real-world learning into your classroom with projects? Well, there are tons of things you can try out this year, from a small, one-time project, to a year-long project. Some contain extensive use of technology while others have very little. I’ve found some great ones recently I just had to share with you…I’m looking for classrooms willing to try one or more of them out!

Projects with Jen

Jennifer Wagner organizes on projects all year long with teachers around the world on her Projects with Jen Ning (and yes, this is probably blocked at school…but don’t worry…it’s safe). The third grade at G.W. Carver participated in one of her projects last February called From Me To You 2008. They really enjoyed it, so I’m trying to get other teachers to try out some of her other projects. Here’s a few upcoming projects that really caught my eye:

O.r.e.o. (Our Really Exciting Online) Project 2008!

  • Runs from: Sept. 15-Oct. 10
  • Could be completed in 1 or 2 class periods, but includes enrichment ideas to take it further.
  • Entails stacking Oreo cookies and comparing results from around the world.

A Room with a View

  • Runs all year long with a picture and a writing assignment once a month.
  • Teachers will learn to upload digital pictures to a picture sharing site.
  • Students take a picture from a window in the classroom/school once a month and write about what they see. The share their pictures from classes around the world to see how seasons vary.

Gingerbread Man 2008

  • Runs from Nov. 1- Dec. 20.
  • Contains a variety of activities to go with the Gingerbread Man story, most of which require only a little bit of technology skill.


For older grades, Storychasers might be a fun way for your students to improve their writing skills while learning more about their families and community. It is described as “a multi-state (and potentially multi-national) educational collaborative empowering students and teachers to responsibly record and share stories of local, regional and global interest as citizen journalists. There are a variety of types of stories your students can collect, including biographies, careers, and (the one that REALLY caught my eye) ghost stories.

Ghost Stories with Story Chasers

  • Would like to do this project around October. Will take at least 3-4 class periods.
  • Students will collect and share local ghost stories via a podcast or digital story.
  • I’ll be really actively involved in assisting with this project in my schools, especially when it comes time to record and share stories.
  • More info to come.

Regions of Virginia Project

  • This project is open to 4th Grade Classrooms in Virginia. It meets 4th Grade Virginia Studies SOLs and Writing objectives. This project will run from Oct. 1-April 24, 2009. Registration is open now until Sept. 29!!
  • Students will collaborate with other 4th graders across Virginia to describe, compare, and contrast regions. They will use a Wiki, Google Maps, and possibily other technology tools.
  • This project is being coordinated by a group of ITRTS, including myself. I’ll be activly involved in assisting with this project. If you teach 4th grade at one of my schools, I’ll be bugging you about this very soon!

Ocean Threads

  • Will be open to all grade levels. Great for habitats, ocean animals, camoflauge, and other topics.
  • Students will formulate questions, as a class and in collaboration with other classes, to ask Meg Swecker. Meg will be embarking on a scuba diving expidition, and will answer the questions using actual pictures she’s taken underwater.
  • I’ll be happy to help teachers in my school learn to use Voice Thread and assist you with recording your students questions. As you collaborte with other classes to create questions for Meg, I’ll help facilitate that for you.
  • More info to come as Meg plans her next trip!

Math Zoo

  • This is a project is in the piolot phase and will be open to 3rd graders in select Salem City, Roanoke County, and Roanoke City schools. G.W. Carver and East can participate! It will target Math and Science SOLs skills with Mill Mountain Zoo activities.
  • More info to come! Let me know if you work with 3rd graders at one of my schools and are interested.

Scuba Diving ITRT Embarks on Another Adventure

Meg Swecker, an ITRT for Roanoke County, is getting ready to take another scuba diving trip, and she wants to take you with her virtually! Listen to the voice thread below. If your class would like to send her questions for her to answer while she’s there, let me know! I’ll teach you how to use Voicethread![kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=78327" width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

What We Learned from Virtual Scuba Diving Project

I’m slowly (but surely) making my way around to the classes that participated in the Scuba Diving project with Meg Swecker. I’ve already made it to a few classes, and the students have had a chance to record what they learned on a collection of Mrs. Swecker’s pictures in Voice Thread. This VoiceThread will evolve as I finish making it around to the other classes.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=27442" width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

Meg and I also had a chance to sit down and talk about the project from our perspective as ITRT’s, and I also learned some of the other neat ways she extended this project with her students in Roanoke County . We recorded much of the conversation as a Field Report for the GenTech Podcast. If you’d like to listen, here’s the link.