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Mystery Unit

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I am looking for creative ways to use geocaching or our GPS units in a mystery unit at the middle school level.

I might ramble some here. :unsure: This may not be all that mysterious but I myself enjoy figuring out where a particular GPS unit has been by pinpointing the waypoints stored in it using Google Maps or Google Earth. The waypoints could be made on location or edited. The location of a kid’s house may be fun.


It's interesting to see how many miles are between your position and one degree N (latitude) and one degree W Longitude. Ask the kids which, the distance between latitude degrees or the distance between longitude degrees, vary from the equator to the poles. This can be done by making a waypoint one degree away then making a goto to it. You should be outside for this, or at least have been in the location of the school before the GPSrs where shut down the last time.


I've never done the following. It's just some ideas that I can think of right off the bat that would teach the students the meaning of waypoints and coordinates, at least. If the GPS units have maps you could challenge the kids to locate a town or feature that has a specific bearing and is so many degrees and is so many miles away. You might challenge them with finding, by trial and error, a coordinate that is so many miles away and at a specific bearing. They would have to use the goto feature and would have to edit a waypoint for that. Having done that, they could identify that location using mapping software. Other than Google I sometimes use MapQuest. One of my mystery caches requires the seeker to first locate a graveyard. To find the cemetery they must place themselves, using the goto feature, so many miles from where I had them start [and] they must see that the bearing (actually a back-bearing) back to the starting point is what I tell them it should be. E.g. from the resting place a goto back to the starting point read 2.3 miles and have a bearing (back-bearing) of 16 degrees. That would place the graveyard generally south of the starting point 2.3 miles. You might have enough room to do that sort of thing on the school property. The end result could be finding a prize or a "cache" in which is a clue to something else they need to locate etc.


I commonly use pictures, even close-ups that a geocacher needs to locate once they reach a predetermined coord. From there they look for an object shown in a second picture and so on. I call that pictocaching.


Maybe you can store specific waypoints in each GPSr that, with the help of maps, would “lead” the students to different cities or locations that begin with a certain letter; added together they would spell words. If the whole class compiled the words together they could decipher a sentence from it. If two or more groups had their own sets of words they could see which group would be the first to decipher the sentence. That could lead to an award. I once hid Easter egg “caches”. Each had a word in them. At the end the kids were challenged to assemble the sentence that I wanted them to read. It said, “Thanks for being such good students!” One could do the same with using waypoints stored in the GPSr to locate caches of different names that could be added together to make sentences. The first letter of each location could be one letter of the name of an animal. Figuring out which animal would be like unscrambling an anagram.


Good luck,


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Some thoughts.

Symbols for literacy.


You could make this International.



1st step.

The Basic set up,you could use all or omit some of these as stations or learning stops.

It would take less people to work that way.



Here is a map that can be modified for your area.

It is 1 mile x 1 mile + or -



The symbols could be used at each station to teach something and to find a geocache.

It is always more fun to hunt a treasure than it is to learn so you combine the fun with the learning.

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