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G-AHS Geocaching Club kicks off

Teacher says activity gets technology in students' hands, gets them thinking, gets them outdoors and gets them together

September 17, 2010|By DANA BROWN
  • Eric Witmer finds a geocache Thursday at Greencastle-Antrim High School during the first outing of the school's new Geocaching Club.
Dana Brown, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- There's a new game in town for Greencastle-Antrim High School students.

Social studies teacher James Thomas on Thursday kicked off a new Geocaching Club, an entirely different kind of extracurricular activity that combines the use of multimillion-dollar military satellite technology, creative thinking, adventure and a whole lot of fun.

The club is designed to attract students to a unique outdoor adventure activity that is part education and part relationship building.

Thomas, an avid geocacher himself, said he wanted to start a club that appealed to students not inclined toward the more traditional extracurricular activities offered through the school.

"This is a niche I could fill," Thomas said.

Geocaching is a high-tech, treasure-hunting game played around the world using GPS devices to locate containers, called geocaches, hidden by other geocachers in various outdoor locations. The idea is to use GPS coordinates to get within the general vicinity of a hidden container and then explore the area to find the treasures held within. They also log their finds and experiences online.

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Thomas said geocaching gets technology in students' hands, gets them thinking, gets them outdoors and gets them together.

And it's a great way to get students to explore their own community, he said.

"I want these students to get out there and see their local history, see what's around, and find cool spots in their own town they can be proud of," Thomas said.

Senior Ryan Carty said his adventures in geocaching have taken him to places he wouldn't typically go.

"The random places makes it cool," Carty said. "It's something different to go do."

He and his friends have shared many memorable moments during their geocaching adventures including a three-hour hike just to find two caches.

"So many funny moments come out of it," Carty said, laughing.

Tenth-grader Dylan Yohn said the whole idea of geocaching is that it "makes learning fun."

"It's not like a 20-minute lecture. It's neat stuff you learn," he said.

Autumn Shubert, 15, said she joined the Geocaching Club because it is so different from the other clubs offered at school.

"It's fun. You get to run around and act like little kids," she said.

Jen Tipton, 16, said for her there is value in the club as an activity to include on college applications.

Thomas said geocaching is a relatively inexpensive activity for the students. While many already have GPS-enabled cell phones, Thomas is in the process of applying for grant money to purchase GPSs for club use.

"It's something that doesn't cost them a dime," Thomas said. "Or the school district for that matter."

Thomas plans to incorporate community service into club activities. Students are encouraged to pick up litter and properly dispose of it when they are out on geocaching adventures and as a club they plan to organize a broader clean-up effort in the future, he said.

Unsure how many students would show interest in the new club, Thomas said he was pleased that 16 students turned out for the first meeting.

"I've got a feeling it's going to grow," he said.

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