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Teaching geocaching & local heritage

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Below is a message I sent to geocaching.com headquarters this morning, but don't want to wait for the 2 weeks for a little feedback. Can anyone please respond?


"I'm a professor of tourism at Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri. Last year, I was challenged by 2 community leaders to try to promote local heritage tourism. I've been involved with local heritage tourism in our community myself for 20 years. Our community is loaded with many heritage sites (railroad, Civil War, early commerce, Black history, etc.), but they're not well known yet. At about the same time, I learned about geocaching. Instantly, the two seemed like a perfect marriage. My big problem was finding enough help to do what I want to do. Another big problem to solve is that mostly older people enjoy local history. We want to get younger people involved. Then, it dawned on me that I might be able to get elementary school kids involved . . . in technology, the geocaching sport, local history, and getting kids outdoors.


It took a year to get just 18 Garmin eTrex Legends together by begging. Then, I wrote a school district foundation grant proposal, introduced it to a local at-risk elementary school principal and 2 teachers who tweaked it a bit, submitted, and got $5,000 to buy 32 more units, batteries & chargers. I realized most at-risk elementary schools are located within walking distance of many local history sites (the older part of town).


For our first geocaching project, just to make it easy, I chose a pretty bombed-out historic district called Commercial Street, an old, deprived part of the community that once thrived on the railroad. Tracks run parallel to it, but more than 150 feet from it. While many of the old buildings in this commercial district are still vacant, many are now small shops. Each one has a very colorful history, from about 1895 until present. For some time, I've had students in my classes tracing the history (succeeding owners' names, names of the different businesses that have occupied the buildings over the years, and where the owners actually lived in town as well) of each building in Polk's City Directories. So now, we have a historical profile of each building that's still standing, including the names of people who lived in the upstairs apartments over the years.


The plan is for my college students to meet in elementary school classrooms to teach 4th & 5th graders about GPS, satellites, geocaching, www.geocaching.com. Then we plan to practice in a park near that first school, my students coaching the kids. We plan to hide a couple of caches there too, working through the local Park Board. Next, we plan to collect the waypoints for each old building along Commercial Street Historic District. In the meantime, my students have taken digital photos of each old building and met with as many people along Commercial Street to add any detail they can to each building's history. We've now collected cache containers and camoflauged a bunch of containers. My students have collected an enormous amount of kid-friendly stuff, registration pads and pencils in ziplock bags, plus the plastic laminated (by the University's technology lab) building history sketches into the cache containers. We've spoken to many of the business people currently occupying the old buildings to ask if they would each be willing to host and maintain a cache, NOT FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES. Many have agreed. Once we have everything in place in late April, we'll want to post each cache on www.geocaching.com . Will that be possible?


We also hope to post the entire collection of Commercial Street histories as a virtual geocache tour. This will, of course, include ALL the old buildings, not just the ones (about 50%) currently occupied. We've already paid for our 3 premium memberships.


Commercial Street Historic District is gradually being restored and revitalized. Geocaching and virtual geocaching components will be just a small, but significant part of the process.


Next semester, our plan is to have this year's 4th graders in the school we're currently working with go with us to a different at-risk school to train their 4th & 5th graders. Each year, we plan to continue with the training and working through different historic areas of our community.


Please give me some feedback. Local geocacher, John Vaughan, has been assisting with training my students. Yesterday, he told me that a man named Glen is in St. Louis who approves all www.geocaching.com sites in Springfield. Perhaps this can be forwared to him for feedback?"

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The fact that caches are in commercial buildings will require special permission from geocaching headquarters. I think you have sought that already. I doubt you will have any trouble there.


Remember that each cache must be a minimum of 528 feet apart. As far as I know they will not approve a virtual cache.


What I would do if I were you is make the process of finding fewer caches a matter of getting information inside the various stores and or gathering some sort of info from the buildings themselves etc, etc. I have done things with pictures that might work for you. I call them pictocaches. If interested here are two: GOTO-UNI and HE DIED FOR THE UNION.


You might want to make the task of finding a coord a puzzle using various aspects of the history of the area.


Good luck,



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Not sure if caches located at area businesses will be approved by Groundspeak, that's up to them.


You could have as many caches that you wanted, provided you listed them in the school's newsletter or website. Regarding the school's website, the older students could do the html coding for it, as a way to get them involved also.


Also, don't forget about benchmarks.

There's a lot of history behind them.


Now, you gotta give the kids some incentive, like bragging rights.

Various certificates are just the ticket - easy and inexpensive to print!


First Cache Found/Certificate of Participation.

First to Find (a particular cache)

Most Extreme Cache Found.

Certified Cacher (for those finding 25+ caches)

The list is nearly endless.


I wish you good luck in your endeavor,

~ Mitch ~

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Just to expand on what Tom said, virtual caches won't be approved because that category of cache no longer exists. Existing ones have been grandfathered in, but no new ones can be created. Likely there are Waymarking categories that would be good fits. If not, you can probably create one!


Because you're asking people to enter businesses incidental to the purpose of the physical caches, I'll bet that Groundspeak will approve this use of commercial locations.


And I second Mitch's suggestion that you consider including benchmarks in your efforts. They often have a lot of local history behind them, such as past names of your town or its districts. You can see a basic FAQ on Groundspeak's Benchmark Hunting page. And please feel free to come over to the Benchmark Hunting forum for help.



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I would suggest EarthCaching as a logical extention of any educational geocaching program.


From the website:


An EarthCache site is a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature or aspect of our Earth. Visitors to EarthCache sites can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth.


The current cagegories of EarthCaches are:


Cave/Karst Feature

Coastal Feature

Erosional Feature

Fault Feature

Fold Feature

Fossil Site

Geomorphological Feature

Glacial Feature

Historical Site

Hydrologic Feature

Igneous (Plutonic) Feature

Igneous (Volcanic) Feature

Impact Feature

Metamorphic Feature

Mineral Site

Mining Site

River Feature

Sedimentary Feature

Structural Feature


EarthCaching sites include — sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock exposures and

road cuts, fossil sites, volcanic features, canyons, overlooks, museums, mining sites, mineral sites,

erosional features, caves/karst, coastal or river features, glaciers and glacial features, structural

features (i.e. San Andres Fault, anticlines, synclines, etc.), aquifer springs, hot springs, historical

sites, submerged forests and peat bogs, geomorphological features, impact crater sites, and even

building stone tours if educational. And this is just the tip of the iceberg (wait - that could be an EarthCache too!)


The EarthCache organization has developed a Teachers Guide and lesson plans. All of this is totally free!


Please stop by the website and check it out. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via my profile.



AKA: DeRock & the Psychic Cacher - Grattan MI

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Are you opening this up for "the world" to explore, or just your local community? If you are only doing this with your local students/senior citizens/??? then you don't have to have them logged on geocaching.com - you can just create a sheet with the coordinates. As for the GPS units, just create waymarks when you are at the sites. Now if you are wanting them on the geocaching site then you'll have to conform to the standards set by this site. Sounds as if you have put a LOT of work into this - hope it is successful! I'd be interested in your progress.

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