Jump to content

Sustainability in the Inner City?


Recommended Posts


I'm an art Teacher in East Los Angeles and Have been taking students Geocaching for a number of years. But, I found myself slowing it down this year in particular. I think that the reason is I can't find a more effective way to do this? I can only take 4-5 kids out at a time. (There very few caches in the inner city and no real Geocaches in East Los Angeles or any that one would want to get after school hours!). So, I have taken kids over the weekend, one Saturday a month) to different places. We would talk about how GPS devices work and how it utilizes the satellite systems and how to read a topographical map. Also, I show them how the coordinate points work on a global map. I've gone the full gambit about doing trackales (They've all been muggled!)!We do the puzzles and multi-caches together. I've even set-up a separate 'student account' for the kids that they all share, so they can keep track of logs and go and find them on their own (they borrow one of my three Garmin GPS devices that I got for this club). But, here is my dilemma...


I work in the inner city. it's a real poor area. My school does not help with any funding. I pay for everything. Which I figured when i first started this a few years ago. I have 25 students who want to do this, and i can only take 4-5, at the most, on a trip. Because, the whole thing about geocaching is to actually go out to different places and find the caches. I've allocated one saturday a weekend to take groups out, but it's pretty hard to sustain this after the third year. I've asked other teachers at school for help, but they find it interesting, but no one is 'dedicated' to this. Also, when I have taken a teacher with me and they are able to transport kids to various different areas, having 10+ kids trying to find a cache... well...it kinda... well... it sucks! Too many people dilutes the "joy" factor of the actual 'find.' We've done city caches, but they are not as exciting as the ones that involve hiking in the mountains! Or generally take them on a 3-4 hour drive from away Downtown LA.


So the challenge is this:

Because I've been doing this for several years now, I have the interest of the students. I have the passion for this and I also have the support and trust of the parents and school (although there is no funding), but I knew that going into this. But, the thing is, I don't know how to do this so it can be a long term sustainable system? Meaning, are there any suggestions on how to do this with about 25 students in the inner city where we have to travel far to find some decent caches? (yeah, the micros are fun, but the need to balance it out with the "wow" factor caches is almost impossible in the city.) Any suggestions of how to actually manage the 'hunt' for a cache? I don't want to give this up, but it's difficult to maintain this once a month. It's so costly! Did I mention that I always get them a lunch sometimes a dinner... Those of you reading this that teach in the inner city know what I mean, a lot of these kids don't have the food at home or the care. Neglect, bad food, hygiene, and eating habits is common place.


My whole purpose of this is to show the students that there is an entire world out there beyond the few blocks they they mainly exist within.


So, If anyone has any suggestions of how to improve on this....? If keep doing what I'm doing is what is to happen, then so be it. But, I thought that I would throw this up in the forum and see what comes back?


PS- Please don't read this as if I am getting burn out and discouraged of trying to combine my two passions. I just don't know how sustainable this is? I LOVE TEACHING AND GEOCACHING! AND I LOVE TAKING THE STUDENTS TO PLACES that they probably would never have been to go to in their entire lives. I'm just asking if there are any suggestions.......

Link to post

This is a good idea.


I learned about geocaching from my 6th grade teacher, and I still do it in the ninth grade. If you're looking for ways to keep doing this without losing money. I would suggest:


1) Encourage the kids to pack their own lunches and dinners. I'm sure they'd rather have someone else pack them, but it would save you money and time.


2) Maybe try asking for small donations from the parents of the kids who go. Nothing big say. If you have around 20 kids and each parent gives you $5 for every OTHER time you take them caching, then that's 100$. It's not much but it definatley helps. Explain to the parents the situation you're in and most of them might be willing to spare a few dollars.


3) My last suggestion. Encourage the kids to go on their own or with their friends. Less kids to make lunches for will save you money. Also if you have less kids it will get to a point where the kids you still take will be going more and more often, and might enjoy it more and more.


These are just my suggestions. There's probably a lot you could do.


Good luck!

Link to post

Gopher Greg,


Thanks for the great suggestions, but the problem is that these kids live in the inner city of East Los Angeles and in Middle School. The freedom for them to walk around the 'hood' in a small group looking and hunting around for small containers on their own is a bit too sketchy. They'd get picked up by the cops in a second or get challenged by a gang, or just get jumped for the GPS and whatever they got on them. Caching in East Los Angeles isn't bad during the day as a young adult to adult. But, Middle Schoolers, pre-teens, or young teens are a bit too young go walk around here by themselves... Sad isn't it...


I've learned the food dilemma:


Packing their lunch is a great idea that I've done many times. But came to a conclusion, most of the time, they don't bring anything because 98% of the students that go to my school are on a reduced lunch program (meaning that the families are too poor to afford food at home. So, the school supplies them with breakfast, snack, and lunch). Most of the kids hang out after school to grab what's left over from the day to take home for their dinner. A lot of the parents here are third generation (ex)gang members, (ex)drug addicts, on food stamps, and we have a few homeless families here, too. So, the times that I did do that, some of the kids would bring a lunch, but the ones that didn't would just watch the others eat! I couldn't let that happen, so I started to buy them food. Now, my program is set that I end up taking the kids to a steak house or a Korean BBQ place. You should see their eyes, the questions, and statements..."Why are the napkins made our of cloth? I've never used chopsticks! What's a steak knife? This is what a steak looks like? We don't have to throw our plates away? Oh My gosh, the bathroom is so clean and smells nice! How come the waitress is so nice?"

Like geocaching, I learned that I like taking the kids to places and experiences that they probably never had experienced before. I tell them that they have to bring three things, Bottled water, A pen, and their sketchbooks (I'm their art teacher). Optional items: tradables, fruit/vegetables, and a camera. I don't buy them soda or candy nor can they bring any. I try to promote health living. As the time went on, I needed to find a way to "filter" the students to see who would earn the trips. The kids go though quite a bit of learning and prep (solving the multi, puzzles, and mapping out the best efficient routes to each cache, and finding the best cache route options). And after all is said and done, Four kids gets to earn a trip each month and sign into the Geocaching account and record their finds. Usually, the total cost, including gas and food, is about $150. I do the end of the year Geotrip that cost me about $3/400 (Because they learn about medieval Europe, we do a crusade here in Los Angeles and hike up in the hollywood hills all day, then to the Hollywood sign, and end-up at Medieval Times. The students must get a 95-100 in their history class, perfect behavior, and also Ace all MY tests!). I've done it long enough where I allocate it in my own personal budget. But, That is where most of the cost goes.


The donations idea, I love it. But, these families are poor. $5.00 is a very reasonable amount, but it's against a school rule here that we can't charge/ask for donations from students for a class, an after school enrichment course, offered in school. It has to do with the fact that money would be involved. I can't touch money at all. It all has to go through accounting and the school. It's because of the 'bad' people out in the world who have embezzled money meant for kids. In order for me to begin a 'fund' for that class, i'd need approval from the district offices. Trust me, I've gone the gambit on trying to get money and funding.


Anyway, I guess there really isn't a simple solution to reduce my personal costs and efficiency how how to take care of 20+ students who love this hobby, but don't have the means to support it themselves....


I guess I didn't know what I was asking in my original post.... I think that I already knew the answer... Anyways....


Thanks, Gopher Greg, for your words! One question for you... How did your 6th grade teacher introduce Geocaching to you? Did they take you caching or they just told you about it? And If they took you Geocaching, was it in a small or large group?

Link to post
Also, when I have taken a teacher with me and they are able to transport kids to various different areas, having 10+ kids trying to find a cache... well...it kinda... well... it sucks! Too many people dilutes the "joy" factor of the actual 'find.'
I've taken groups of 10+ kids geocaching. One thing that helps to preserve "the joy factor of the actual find" is to play huckle buckle beanstalk style. That way, everyone in the group has a chance to actually find the cache. (You don't have to use the phrase "huckle buckle beanstalk" of course. The people I go geocaching with often just say "found it" to announce that they've found it.)


Also, if your goal is to take the kids geocaching (rather than to increase your own find count), then you can take multiple groups to the same geocaches. In fact, when I introduce others (including kids) to geocaching, I often take them to caches that I've already found.


But the only idea I have to help with the cost is to find a local sponsor or partner organization that can cover some of the costs. If school rules prohibit you from touching money, and if going through the school is impractical, then maybe the sponsor could provide the meal directly.

Link to post
Also, when I have taken a teacher with me and they are able to transport kids to various different areas, having 10+ kids trying to find a cache... well...it kinda... well... it sucks! Too many people dilutes the "joy" factor of the actual 'find.'
One thing that helps to preserve "the joy factor of the actual find" is to play huckle buckle beanstalk style.


Around here we have something called a 'geo-mob' (Most places probably have one, actually) they go out every Saturday morning. There's a few people who go who like to use that; But only when they've found a real tough hide that they know will take us a while to find! :rolleyes:


Sleepynails: My 6th grade teacher told us about geocaching. My friend decided to try it once and he really liked it. He took me with him and we did some PnGs. He tried to convince me to come but I wouldn't, because I liked the outdoors for road-hockey and long hike up mountains or in the woods. So one time he did bring me for one in the woods. It was a nice hike, and a big container at the end. I got hooked after that one. We didn't cache that much until 8th grade though. I'm glad we did because it gave me my new hobbies (Cryptography, and geology).


I guess that shows that the first cache you show to kids will really make the difference in weather they like it or not.


It's too bad that the area around you seems sketchy. I'd have to think really hard about any other ideas, and it does seem like you're in a bit of a tight spot. I hope you still manage to find a way to take them all caching though!


Good luck,



Link to post



OH MY! I've never heard of that?! Huckle Buckle Beanstalk Style!! I love it! That solves an issue that I have! Thanks! I also did a few searches about it and there is quote a history about this idea. So simple! I can't believe that I hadn't thought about that! Thanks!


And yeah, taking them to caches that I've already found is important for a few reasons. 1. Knowing where it is, how to get there, and parking is an issue when dealing with students. 2. knowing that the actual cache is kept up and clean is important 3: Knowing that it's there because a DNF is kind of a let down, 4: to the trouble of going to a place and a DNF occurs... not really worth the effort. Of Course DNFs are part of the game, but...


I do like to take them to some caches that I haven't found, not to increase MY numbers (I really don't care too much about that), but, I'll found out about one that seems real cool and we'll go for it. But, yeah... a majority of the ones that we go to are ones that we've found before. I don't go on different 'routes' each time. There are routine routes that I take. The students study the history about the area (last cache that we go) and the areas that we stop by (looking for caches along the way) to the last cache. For example, The next trip that I'm taking students on is to the Salton Sea, one of America's worst man-made natural disasters! It's about 3.5 hours away. I usually pick them up at around 7:00am and then drop them off around 6pm. My excursions last all day. For the past few years, we've been keeping a journal about each trip. The Kids like to go back on it and read past entries in our GeoJournal.


I also love the idea for a sponsor. I'm friendly with a local grocery store owner. I've never thought about connecting the two together until this post. I'm definitely going to pursue this direction!


This actually rejuvenates me!! I love the simple ideas that solve, seemingly, complex problems! THANKS!





You are very true about the first cache! The first cache that I take my new students to that Demuggles them is known as the largest cache in Downtown LA. It's a cylinder about 3feet long and 1foot wide. It's huge and smack in the middle of downtown Los Angeles! When the students find it, they can' hardly believe that its hidden in plain sight and been there for years!


I really enjoy your story. If you don't mind, I'd like to share it with my students. Just for the fact that there are other students around the same age (I teach middle school) are Geocaching somewhere else in the world. I think that they'd like it...?

Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...