Fifth grade students at the Spalding Drive Elementary School in Sandy Springs, Georgia were able to learn all about what the city’s GIS (Geographic Information Systems) staff do each day through geocaching, or “treasure hunting” with a GPS device. This was the city’s way of recognizing National Geography Awareness Week.
The students had fun searching for hidden “treasures” with provided GPS devices, and were able to ask questions of the duties of the GIS staff and geography in general, GPS technology, and how GIS benefits the community.
The kids were divided into groups, given a GPS device and told to get geocaching outside. Geocaching, if you aren’t familiar with the term, is a high-tech treasure hunt where objects are placed at specific coordinates which you then have to find with your GPS device by plugging in those coordinates. The objects hidden for the students were intentionally small, more specifically smaller than a silver dollar, which forced the kids to rely more on the GPS device than their own eyes. The GPS coordinates of each object was plugged into the device, which then led the students to the hidden objects.
Josh Lontz, Sandy Springs GIS Analyst, said “It is interesting to watch the kids as they quickly grasp that you have to reference the GPS to locate the item, especially as we hide items that are pretty small, and we don’t tell the kids in advance what they are actually looking to find. While a lot of fun for us to talk about, the kids actually do come away from our presentation with a better understanding about how GIS actually impacts the community.”
Geography Awareness Week was created in 1987 by the National Geographic Society. It is always the third week of November, and is a way to demonstrate the importance of geo-education and geo-literacy. The Sandy Springs GIS team has worked with the city’s schools during this week for the past five years.