A few weeks ago, SLAGA was contacted by Girl Scout troop leader Katherine Meirink, inquiring if we had anyone willing to teach a dozen fifth-grade girls how to geocache. Of course, the answer was a resounding YES!
On October 5, Nancy Gelb (walkingstic-stl), Nan Fritschle (nan-d1955), Evelyn Fenter (arabbit, of arabbit&ubuck), Bill Lange (How-D) and Patricia Hutchison (spiritwolf922) showed up at the Dog Museum entrance of Queeny Park to introduce 12 students and three adults to geocaching.
Walkingstic-stl had already been busily setting out her gear, which included samples of caches, trackables and swag, as well as four temporary caches interspersed among ‘live’ caches for the kids to find.
At about 3:30 pm, members of Troop 1247 of St. Clement’s arrived with their leaders and gathered at the picnic tab-2-2le where walkingstic-stl began with introductions of the other SLAGA members who were assisting her, then engaged her students by asking what they already knew about geocaching and GPS units. The kids enthusiastically responded and asked their own questions.
The presentation was brief due to time constraints, but walkingstic-stl and her supporters were able to explain geocaching etiquette and what to expect with searching for caches, such as sizes of containers and signing logs. She also introduced them to some geocaching terms such as ‘muggle’ – which the students all knew from Harry Potter – swag and CITO. Several of the volunteers reinforced the idea that cachers are eco-friendly and that to keep our game board clean and fun for everyone, it is a good practice to pick up trash whenever we see it.
Walkingstick-stl also stressed safety, reminding the students that they would be in an active parking lot and crossing the entrance to the park. “Watch out for elephants!” was her mantra for this lesson – and one which was repeated throughout the next hour, as volunteers reminded the students to look up from their GPS units periodically to make sure they weren’t walking in front of a car.
Each student was provided a small bag of swag to trade at the temporary caches – the ‘live’ caches were all too small for swag – and, splitting into three groups, they were off to find their first hides.
ETrexes in hand, walkingstic-stl led one set of girls with the troop leader, nan-d1955 took off with another lot and How-D and arabbit headed off with the last group. How-D’s and arabbit’s charges headed toward their first location, zeroing out quickly and beginning to look around. It took a few minutes for them to spot the hide, with How-D suggesting that they fan out a little, reminding them of the title of the cache – a temporary called Cave Dweller – and explaining that geocachers used more than their eyes to puzzle out where something could be hidden. In this case, the cache was stowed in a crevice between two large boulders and had a slim stone covering the entryway.
There’s nothing quite like the cry of “Found it!” by the first-time cacher, and the smiles on the faces of the SLAGA members showed the same delight, pleased at having passed that excitement along to their students, and hopefully, future geocachers.
Throughout the lesson, the SLAGA volunteers answered questions, offered their insights on caching as well as emphasizing the need to stay together and work together – no cacher left behind! – while walking between hides. The students loved finding the larger containers, eagerly spilling the contents and making their trades, then signing in and putting the cache back in its hiding space for the next bunch to find.
How-D’s and arabbit’s group were at one cache when walkingstic-stl’s students approached. The kids at the cache began hurriedly signing the log while some of the others worked to distract the newcomers so the cache could be replaced for them to experience the same fun finding it.
All too soon, the session came to an end and the Girl Scouts had to gather in the parking lot to leave for their next activities for the evening. The leaders appeared to be quite pleased with the results and profusely thanked walkingstic-stl and her supporters. Before they left, the SLAGA representatives suggested to the Girl Scouts that if they had any further questions or just wanted to learn more about geocaching, to contact SLAGA through its website, and to consider looking for and attending events to meet other cachers.
Groups such as Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts looking for assistance with the geocaching merit badge are encouraged to contact SLAGA via the local website. Because these sessions are provided by volunteers, it is best to inquire as early as possible to ensure that someone is available during the timeframe requested.