GREENFIELD — A group of 45 children and parents went on a technological treasure hunt at the Hancock County Fairgrounds Thursday as part of an introductory class in geocaching.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity that utilizes GPS devices to help participants – called geocachers – search for hidden goodies disguised to blend in with their environment.
Programmed with a geocache’s specific coordinates, GPS devices guide geocachers to the general area – usually within about 30 feet – of where a geocache is hidden.
A geocache is a waterproof container of any size, usually camouflaged in some way to avoid immediate detection, that can contain any number of rewards.
Families can set up their own geocaching games (by having parents hide items in their own neighborhood for their children to find, for example) or they can go looking for geocaches hidden by people they’ve never met.
A geocaching world map is available online at www.geocaching.com.
The idea is to keep the game going, so if geocachers take what’s inside a container they find, they’re expected to replace it with something else.
Each container also usually contains a sheet of paper, where geocachers print their name or handle to prove they’ve found the hidden item.
Thursday, the Hancock County Purdue Extension Office invited locals to try their hand at geocaching during an introductory class called “Geocaching the 4-H Way.”
While scouring the fairgrounds, participants Tyler Pipkin, 10, and his sister, Brooke Pipkin, 8, said they are pros at the outdoor activity.
The unknown aspects of geocaching – a container can be hiding just about anything, after all – is part of the thrill.
“My dad and I found money once,” Tyler Pipkin said, remembering it was about 75 cents.
Brooke said her dad is the geocaching enthusiast and even has an application on his cellphone that allows him to quickly pull up the location of geocaches in any given area.
The last time was just recently at a friend’s birthday party. The family found three geocaches hidden nearby, Brooke said.
Extension educator Sarah Burke recently attended training on geocaching and said she immediately recognized it as an opportunity to engage kids in learning outside a traditional classroom setting.
“Geocaching is really educational because you’re learning technology, and it’s a lot of critical thinking skills,” Burke said.