Who's in the Burrow?

Putting the "G" in Geocaching in SBA's Applied Sciences Class

"G" in action in Advisory
Marmot Folk,

I'm going to depart from the impersonal, press-release style of previous posts to begin this particular post by saying that there are so many great things going on at SBA it's hard to know whom or what to spotlight next.

Take Guenther's and Devin's brainchild, SBA TV, for example, which, if you haven't seen on Facebook yet, you definitely should soon. Then there's Spirit Week, photos of which are available by clicking on thumbnails in the blog header (if you view the blog at the Web site rather than in your email client).

But this is one of the coolest campus things I've heard of so far this fall.

Maybe "cool" dates me. My 12-year-old son would suggest I use "sick" instead.

If you don't know anything about geocaching you might want to do some background research either before of after reading this (check out http://www.geocaching.com/about/default.aspx).

It is, in a nutshell, like high-tech treasure hunting - going in search of geocaches with a GPS as your guide and coordinates from an on-line database as your only clues.

And, soon, Sugar Bowl Academy will have its own geocaches registered in the national database, left in the wilds of the campus vicinity by SBA students of Andy Giordano's Applied Sciences class.

Giordano - "G" to most on campus - recently sent his science students out on a series of scavenger hunts to the summit looking for caches he had set up in advance of the class meeting.

"There were two teams - I gave each team the coordinates to the first cache, where they found a question for which they had to apply their knowledge from an earlier activity to answer, and then, when they texted me in the right answer to that question, I texted them back the coordinates to the next cache."

Here's a sample question from the caches: "How would a researcher be able to identify an Earth-like planet around a distant star?"

(Answer: I have no idea.)

Students were equipped with small GPS units to move from cache to cache based on the coordinates they were sent by Giordano.

"There are a lot of pieces to this, and one of them is just getting (SBA students) to understand what they're holding in their hands when they're holding a cell phone map. That technology came from somewhere but was adapted for civilian use and has been mainstreamed.

"It gives them basic navigation skills, along with the idea that there are a lot of communities out there that they can be part of. The geocaching community is a big one.

"The Applied Science part of it is getting a handle on how GPS satellites locate you. It's triangulation - your little handheld bumps out a signal and determines how far away you are from a satellite and draws a sphere where the radius is the distance from you to a satellite. Where the spheres from multiple satellites intersect is where you are."

Shortly before parents' weekend, the class's two geocaching teams each set up their own geocache sites, taking down the coordinates so that they can be registered in the national database.

Although the contents of each geocache are not typically publicized (the mystery of their contents is part of the allure of finding them), it is known that these particular caches will serve to advertise Sugar Bowl Academy to geocaching enthusiasts.

"Among other things, there are a bunch of SBA stickers in them," said Giordano.

Ninth-grader Perry Schaffner said that she found the hands-on nature of this particular Applied Sciences class activity to be "really, really fun."

"I liked that we got to walk all over behind the school and explore. It taught us how to find coordinates so that, if you were ever lost, the GPS would help you. It taught you some of your surroundings that you don't get to see every day."

I only wonder if "really, really fun" is as cool as "sick." I'm sure my son will enlighten me on the subject.

Be well,
Marmot Man

PS - Check out SBA's "groovy" (should have used that all day long on "Retro Day") Picasa photo album - called "Scene on Campus" - at http://picasaweb.google.com/sugarbowlacademy/SceneOnCampus#. Bookmark and visit often - it is updated regularly.