Geocaching club gets students outside, sparks academics
By Pamela Johnson
Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
A group of students at Loveland Classical Schools spends Thursday afternoon being scholars, detectives, problem solvers, code specialists and explorers.
The 20 students in science teacher Stan Polley’s geocaching club love the challenge of making puzzles adventurers must solve to find the coordinates that will lead them to a hidden cache as well as finding the treasures themselves.
“I like the challenge, and I like being outside,” said Caleb Comer, 12. “I like being rewarded for being outside … And it helps me with my patience.”
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow may be simply a paper to sign that you found the cache or it may be something more elaborate, like a “travel bug” inside a cache to move from location to location and track online.
Or it may be a surprise.
The Loveland Classical Schools students recently hid toy army figures and dinosaurs at one site, and at another, they made a cache in which the seeker must pour water to get the capsule to float to the top.
“It’s sneaky,” said Bastian Bailey, 12, as the club hid the water cache.
Geocaching is an international hobby in which people around the world use their imaginations, their sense of adventure and coordinates to find camouflaged and hidden caches in trees, on fence posts, tucked under rocks, on bridges, nearly anywhere you can imagine. The game begins with coordinates, which are available online at www.geocaching.com.
For the Loveland Classical students, some of the fun kicks off even before the search. They love building the caches and creating puzzles that people must decode before they can see the coordinates.
Polley said he encourages the students to tie the puzzles to the subjects that spark their interest.
During a recent class, Henri Englehorn, 14, was creating a cipher in which people must convert letters to numbers to find the coordinates, while 13-year-old Elliot Bridges was hatching an algebra equation that, when solved, would lead to the clue to find a hidden cache.
Across the room, 10-year-old Eva Godwin and 11-year-old Grace Hilde created the “Table of Greva,” a puzzle in which the coordinates were tied to the Periodic Table of Elements.
“You get to be really creative and find interesting ways to do it,” said Eva.
The students are learning while they are having fun. They spend time outside, running and hunting for geocaches, and they spend time flexing their brains with the puzzles.
When asked why, the answer was almost universal — because it is fun.
Added Sophia Blesener, 12, “Geocaches are magical.”