The Amazing Race Geocache

Michelle Kinzel
GIS, San Diego Mesa College
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Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2011 | Reviewed: November 3, 2013


This hands on activity sends participants along a pre-determined course, using handheld GPS units, clues, and math skills to search out visual locations. Students compete in teams using basic functions of a Garmin GPS unit and georeferenced data classified according to clues to find a finish line, complete with prizes.

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This activity is appropriate for students beginning a program of study or course involving the use of georeferenced data. The activity helps students navigate with a hand held Garmin GPS unit and understand georeferenced data and locations of objects related to latitude and longitude.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This is an introductory activity and no prior skills or concepts need to have been mastered. Lectures on latitude, longitude, directionality, GPS, satellites and basic physics of satellite signals can be helpful, but not necessary.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is held on the San Diego Mesa College campus in celebration of GIS Day. All campus disciplines and students are invited, as well as local high school educators and students. This race is designed as a stand alone activity and is appropriate for students preparing to use georeferenced data, GIS data or design projects with GPS data.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Content: Satellite technology, basic physics of GPS satellites and hand held GPS units, georeferenced data, relative location of objects in space, collecting georeferenced data and using math and thinking skills to solve clues.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  1. Spatial thinking, and relating the location of objects to photos, visual clues and georeferenced waypoints marked in a GPS unit.
  2. Mathematical skills.
  3. Team building and cooperative skills to solve problems.

Other skills goals for this activity

  1. Familiarize students with the basic functions and physics of GPS handheld data.
  2. Teach students basic navigational skills using hand held GPS units.
  3. Experience varying latitude and longitude and become familiar with georeferenced data.
  4. Have fun and win prizes!

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will learn how to perform basic skills using a Garmin GPS unit; mark waypoints, navigate to a waypoint, use the compass and 'go to' functions to estimate distance to a pre-programmed point, change GPS data to find hidden locations. Students will work in teams and help each other as they learn new GPS skills and gain a working understanding of georeferenced data, using clues and team work to solve problems, and how objects are oriented in space.

Determining whether students have met the goals

This activity is designed to be open to non-GIS users as well as GIS savvy participants, and the goal is to find the finish line with answers to clue questions. Success is achieved when students cross the finish line with answers to certain clue questions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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