Thursday, October 22, 2009

Educaching - A Review


Product: EduCaching GPS based curriculum for grades 4-8

Company: SDG Creations

Price: $32

Where to buy:

Brief Overview:

Combine the fun of a GPS treasure hunt with the learning experience of several included lessons plans to get your student up and outside, and excited about learning.

In-Depth Look:

Jason Hubbard, a 5th grade educator, was fascinated when he discovered geocaching. In case you are not familiar with geocaching, here is a brief explanation from their site:

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

Mr. Hubbard
quickly realized that the hunts could center around learning. He developed this manual so that he and other teachers could do just that. The manual includes information, ideas, lessons and tools to equip a teacher to get their students out of the classroom while still learning . You can see a detailed view of how the lessons align with the national standards. And you can check out some sample lessons here.

The manual is just over 100 pages. You can order a printed version or as an instant download to save on shipping. I received the instant download, but printed it for my own convenience.

The sections are as follows:

Section 1: Teachers Training - This section explains the gps (global positioning system), geocaching, and the educaching materials.

Section 2: Lesson Plans - This section explains the set-up of the lesson plans and includes three different difficulty levels. It also shows how each lesson complies with the National Standards List.

Section 3: Field Sheets - This section includes a worksheet for each lesson, a map for the teacher and a map for the student.

Section 4: Acquiring GPS - This section covers ways to fund buying a GPS. It is mainly geared for school teachers and includes topics such as fundraisers and grant writing.

Section 5: Beyond the Basics - A nice way to sum it all up; this section includes some extra ideas of ways to have fun. Some of them are starting an educachinig club and gps drawing.

We picked one of the beginner lessons: "What Should We Bring to our Picnic". The plan was to hide picnic baskets of various types of foods/drinks. Later, the students could identify possible combinations using lists, arrays and tree diagrams. I decided to instead cut out pictures of foods/drinks and enclose them in sandwich bags.

We quickly realized that this wasn't something we could accomplish in our backyard. So we headed off to our church parking lot and grounds. So lesson #1 - pick a large area to hide the educaches. Once there, we soon realized that it was quite overcast and that we weren't able to get as great of a satellite reception as we had hoped. So lesson #2 - pick a sunny clear day for your educaching. (Note: We were using a GPS app on our I-phone. But you can buy a high-sensitivity GPS for around $100 that will work much better on a cloudy day.)

It took us a good bit of time to figure out the accuracy and range of the GPS, the layout and area of the grounds, and to make a plan of the best way to hide the items. Thankfully, the church has a playground. So our girls didn't mind the wait very much. So lesson #3 - Schedule in a good chunk of time for prep work.

Once we had a plan, we began hiding the baggies. 3 for each girl (2 containing the food pictures. And 1 containing a special prize as their reward for a job well done.) We wrote down the locations on a piece of paper to later hand to our 10 and 7 year olds. During this time, the girls played on the playground so they wouldn't see where we were hiding the caches.

Next we gathered up the girls and handed the GPS over to them. With a brief tutorial from their Daddy, my 10 year old had the basic idea of what was expected. We showed them which way to walk if they wanted the longitude to go up and down. And which way to go for the latitude to change. And sure enough, they walked around and figured it out and found all the caches.

My daughters loved it, especially the 10 year old. It took a good deal of planning and prep. But I think it was a great way to spend an afternoon. Why? Because....
1. They gained familiarity with how to use a GPS.
2. They learned a little about how the satellite reception works and how the weather affects it.
3. They practiced following directions.
4. It was a great teamwork effort.
5. It gave them a sense of adventure - Treasure Hunting.
6. It gave them a sense of accomplishment - doing a "grown-up thing" on their own.
7. It was an outdoors, fresh air and sunshine kind of activity.

What I Like:
It is very affordable.
It is very user-friendly with detailed explanations.
It is fun and educational and gets the classroom "outside".
It inspires all sorts of ideas in addition to the ones listed. The possibilites are endless.

What I Don't Like:
It does require a good deal of time up-front before the kids can start hunting. It also requires a rather large area and clear weather. And of course, if you don't already have a GPS, it will require an upfront investment (about $100 for the high sensitivity models that will work much better on a cloudy day, than our I-phone app did)...unless you are lucky enough to borrow one.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

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