X Marks the (Water) Spot
The Geocache Your Watershed initiative offers communities a fun and innovative way to learn about water-related issues in their own backyard.
A variety of GPS units that can be used for geocaching. Photo: Todd Smith © Environment Canada, 2007. -- Click to enlarge
Across Canada, people are treasure-hunting in their own communities -- they're participating in Geocache Your Watershed, an innovative pilot project that Environment Canada launched in fall 2006. The initiative uses geocaching -- an outdoor treasure-hunting game using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) -- to get students, teachers and their local communities involved in water-related issues and learning more about the importance of fresh, clean, safe water.
The goal is to promote the discovery and understanding of local watersheds by students and the general public. A watershed, or drainage basin, is the area of land that drains, or contributes runoff, to a particular point on a water course such as a stream or river. Water, land wildlife, and human life, rely on watersheds as habitats and for drinking water. Because many people live in watersheds, they play an important role in determining whether they thrive or deteriorate.
Initially, four schools across Canada participated in the Geocache Your Watershed project. Since then, the project has grown to include at least one high school in every province in Canada.
High-Tech Hide and Seek
Examples of articles in a geocache. Photo: Todd Smith © Environment Canada, 2007. -- Click to enlarge
Geocaching is a high-tech hide and seek outdoor adventure game for anyone with access to a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. Individuals and organizations all over the world that are involved in geocaching set up caches -- hidden "treasures" -- and then share their locations in the form of GPS coordinates on special websites. People with GPS devices use these location coordinates to find the caches. There are currently over 600,000 active caches worldwide and more than 50,000 of those are found in Canada.
Students involved in the Geocache Your Watershed project research their local watersheds to develop stories or other water-related promotional products to build their geocaches. The students hide these caches for the ever-growing geocacher community to discover, and in the process, transfer important watershed knowledge in a fun and engaging way.
It's Not Just What's on the Inside that Counts
A cache is usually made of a waterproof container with a logbook and "prizes" inside. Initial contents of a Geocache Your Watershed cache could include informative brochures about the local watershed, items such as school lanyards, trinkets representing the natural or cultural heritage of the area, and so on.
Once the cache is found, the logbook is signed, and the visitor gets to take a prize, and in return, leave a treasure of her or his own. Geocaches can be set up in the wilderness, or in urban areas, and can provide geocachers with a number of different experiences.
For example, the Cache In Trash Out event held in New Brunswick last fall was a hunt that also included the collection and proper disposal of litter found along the treasure trails. Such geocaching events make great clean-up opportunities that involve and benefit the whole community.
Young participant geocaching in a Cache In Trash Out event. Photo: Todd Smith © Environment Canada, 2007. -- Click to enlarge
Get to Know Your Watershed
Environment Canada's Know Your Watershed website, established in 2005, serves as an important resource for researching watershed information and providing Geocache Your Watershed material for students and teachers.
- Date Modified:
- The Geocache Your Watershed project was launched by Environment Canada in the fall of 2006.
- Initially, four schools across Canada participated in the project - since then, the project has grown to include at least one high school in every province in Canada.
- A watershed, or drainage basin, is the area of land that drains, or contributes runoff, to a particular point on a water course such as a stream or river.
- There are currently over 600,000 active caches worldwide and more than 50,000 of those are found in Canada.