Exploration Comes to Life with Orienteering, Geocaching

Bring the essence of exploration to your classroom with hands-on activity such as orienteering and geocaching. Both provide opportunities for students to learn about exploration by developing compass and map skills.

Orienteering involves using a compass and a map to travel from one point to another. Geocaching, on the other hand, involves using a GPS (global positioning system) device to locate “caches,” or containers, that hold a logbook and small prizes. The finder signs the logbook and may elect to take an item from the cache, replacing it with another item. Hundreds of thousands of caches around the world are tracked online at the official geocaching web site. Both orienteering and geocaching are popular hobbies, and teachers should find a wealth of resources and enthusiasts in their local areas.

While incorporating these types of activities can require extra time and effort (and possibly even a field trip), teachers can find support through local orienteering clubs or geocaching enthusiasts. Individuals may be available to conduct presentations or help design and run an activity for students. Some clubs and parks offer orienteering activities for families as well. Ask parents at your school – you might be surprised to find several geocachers and orienteers represented!

Orienteering and geocaching clearly align with social studies standards involving the use of maps, but they can tie into other curricular areas as well. Math, reading, and writing are often incorporated into these activities, as are physical education and cooperative learning. Teachers can extend the literacy components of both activities by having students write directions or create a class geocaching book to document the activity or leave at a cache. Most simply, orienteering and geocaching allow students to practice the skills and experience the concept of exploration firsthand.

We’ve provided links to some resources that may help you incorporate orienteering and geocaching into your classroom. If you have you used either activity successfully, please share your ideas by leaving a comment below!


Organizing a Class Orienteering Event
This article provides an overview of how to create an orienteering event for students. Includes ideas for curricular connections such as mathematics and map skills.

Teaching Mapping and Orienteering Skills to Young Children
This web page provides activities that help students develop mapping skills. Several activities can be conducted within a classroom with few resources.

Orienteering: Map Skills (Grades K-4)
In this lesson, students use a map to locate six landmarks, write explanations of how maps are helpful, and write directions based on a map.

The Amazing Race (Grades 3-5)
A physical education lesson plan in which students locate sites and symbols on a map. No compass work is involved in this particular lesson. Could be adapted for use with younger students.

Orienteering for Kids (Grades 5-6)
In this module, students follow written directions and maps to specific locations, use a compass, and work with topographical maps.


Geocaching 101
An overview of geocaching.

Geocaching Kids
This web site describes the who, what, where, and how of geocaching. The site is appropriate for upper-elementary students. The site also includes links to two educational geocaching projects.

Kids Are Cachers Too
This article from the ezine Today’s Cacher describes educational geocaching from the perspectives of a fourth-grade student and a high school teacher.

Geocaching for Kids
While written for homeschoolers, the suggestions in this brief article are well worth considering for teachers wanting to incorporate geocaching into their classrooms.

The official geocaching site. Free registration and the ability to find geocaches around the world by entering your postal code or address.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright February 2010 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.


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