Virtual Geocaches for Education

My first day of geocaching was while I was on a business trip in Washington D.C.. Paranoia is marked with secret service men and armed guards nearly everywhere you go. Other than the Spy Museum’s caches (which get muggled pretty often), there’s only room for two types of caches in the monument endowed city: microcaches and virtual caches. I had not known of virtual caches before, just that there were little ghosty things on the map that made the DC area look more like a mortuary than a cacher’s paradise.

Had it not been for the good nature of two other cachers, WizardOfMD69 and Suzanne, who took me under their wing that day I might have missed out on a good thing. They introduced me to the world of virtual geocaching. We went to statues and monuments and plaques across the city that I hadn’t been to before. The questions took us down paths of politics, history, architecture, art, science and biographies that I hadn’t delved into before, or if I had, it wasn’t with that detail. Then the thought came to me that virtual caching is really a big outdoor field-trip. You go to places. You learn things. You experience things. Then you take a pop-quiz and get credit.

The main deterrent for virtual caches is that it’s a chore to go through the or geocaching app interface to send that person a message with the answers. Some answers require you email them directly with a picture attachment, which doesn’t allow from their messaging interface. Some cache owners are so strict that if you post your “find” before emailing them they’ll erase it. After finding the virtual cache, the experience goes downhill… so much that I gave up on posting my half-dozen virtual caches discovered that day.

There are ways Groundspeak could improve this experience and make it just as enjoyable as treasure caches. I already know one way which would be simple to implement and make a world of a difference… I won’t go into right now. That’s not the purpose of this post. But I will say it’s a shame that because of their kludgy interface and lack of forethought, virtual caches are being thought of as a lesser cache when in reality they’re often better. In the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the final treasure was knowledge. Virtual caches are that knowledge… only with freaky ghosts to mark them instead of freakier alien skulls.

Whether you home-school or public school, virtual caches and earth caches are a fantastic way to get children excited about learning. Two weeks ago my family went to an event happening in a park downtown. That park happened to contain a virtual cache so I got to introduce virtual caching to my family. The children ran around the monument to take it in where they might of otherwise ignored it. It didn’t take long for my wife, who has an education degree, to come to the same conclusion I did. Virtual caches rock!