The following is a blog post that Jake from Jake's Journal did as a guest blogger for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, one of the featured charities of Saturday's KC Cache Dash and family expo at Garmin's headquarters and Land Rover Merriam.
My goal is simple yet daunting: To get a brilliant, tech-savvy generation of kids off the couch and outside to play. If their parents, teachers and Scout leaders follow their lead, even better. But in my five years as a spokesman for Garmin International, one of the most rewarding benefits of my job is encouraging young people to learn, laugh and explore – all while getting exercise and gaining an appreciation for the world around us. The most effective way I’ve found is also one of the easiest: Geocaching. If you’ve never heard of geocaching, imagine a high-tech treasure hunt that introduces you to remote locations while you’re on vacation as well as hidden charms around your home. Adventurous spirits just like you have hidden containers of all sizes – called “geocaches” – in public areas, uploading the GPS coordinates and leaving them behind to be found by those familiar with the activity. And if this is new to you, you’re not alone. While it’s a wildly popular activity around the world, there are still fewer people out geocaching than those who don’t know it exists. So it’s quite likely there are caches in your neighborhood that you’ve walked by without ever realizing they’re there. We want you to find them. Through OpenCaching.com, geocaching is completely free for anyone who wants to give it a try. And in partnering with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and other great nonprofit groups, the KC Cache Dash on March 24 is our unique attempt to shine the light on geocaching for a new audience while raising money and awareness for great local causes. And on that Saturday, I’ll be focusing on fun for the kids, and I have a very selfish reason.
My first experience geocaching was shortly after I started at Garmin, and I took my parents and my sister’s family out for a day in a local park. Our family has always been fairly active, but we’re also quick to justify taking a day off from exercise due to busy schedules or other commitments. My plan was to sneak in a “workout” without them even knowing it. So I explained the basics of geocaching: After downloading the cache locations to your GPS handheld and selecting them from the menu, you can easily navigate toward them. One key factor – and a great teaching tool when I work with classroom groups – is that the GPS device will help you get very close, but you still have to use your own brain and sleuthing skills to find it. In other words, technology is a tool – but you still need to think to achieve your goals.
So the hunt was on, and any inhibitions about searching for plastic containers in a city park quickly vanished when finding the first one sparked shrieks of delight. From my niece (11 at the time), my nephew (9) and their grandpa (older). It wasn’t long before we’d found four caches in various parts of the park, and it was time to break for a picnic. While walking back to the table, I answered their questions about when people can do this (any time the area is open to the public), who can do it (anyone) and how much it costs to play (nothing). And then I asked them a question: How far did they think we had just walked? They shrugged their shoulders, while clearly running through rough calculations, and offered answers of around a quarter-mile. Once around a school track, that would be a pretty decent walk. So I asked my nephew to check the Garmin watch he’d been wearing, which was measuring the time, speed and distance of every step, and he said: “Does that say 2.2 MILES??”
Like I said, my family is fairly active, but if I would asked my niece and nephew to go walk a couple miles with me, I would’ve been seen as one crazy uncle. Instead, they were clamoring for more.
So I hope you can see why I smile a bit every time I tell people about the March 24 KC Cache Dash expo, where kids and classrooms and troops and families can come out to Garmin headquarters in the morning or Land Rover Merriam in the afternoon to try out geocaching for themselves. It’s not often the whole city is invited to take part in a fun form of exercise, learn about technology and do it all for free. And if you’re a Scout, you could be on the path toward a geocaching merit badge as you’ll get a cache to take home and hide. Throw in the fact that we’re raising money and awareness for great local nonprofit groups, and I think we have a fun day ahead of us. And if you can’t make it out to join us, just log on to OpenCaching.com and check it out for yourself. It’s always fun, and it’s always free.
For more information:
KC Cache Dash expo: March 24, free and open to the public: http://www.kccachedash.com
OpenCaching.com: Learn to cache and download caches for free: http://www.OpenCaching.com