I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, when I returned to my camp counselor job at the Jewish community center this summer, I got assigned the job of outdoor exploration specialist.
I hike occasionally with friends, sure, but I hated my earth science in middle school and I’ve avoided it since. Let’s just say, my campers–ages 4 to 9–knew far more about animals’ traits and identifying trees than I did.
But I had something they didn’t: technology.
After a few days of (frankly boring) suburban “nature walks,” it was time to step up my camp counselor game.
I downloaded the free Geocaching app to my phone and made an account, discovering that there were a handful of caches surrounding the JCC. Giving the kids an end goal–finding the cache–turned our nature walks into veritable scavenger hunts.
The app provides a GPS location (only accurate within 30 or so feet, so when you arrive at a spot you have to look for the cache yourself) and clues from cache’s owner and other geocachers who found it previously. When my campers started getting discouraged, I’d read them hints from the app to help them find the cache.
It was a great way to keep them engaged, even for longer walks. The first geocache we found was about .75 miles down the road–not terribly far for an adult, but 6-year-old legs (and attention spans) are not as long.
I really enjoyed my first geocaching experience, and so did my campers. It’s a great activity for adults and kids alike–and hey, it’s free!