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Geocaching the 4-H Way Inspires Positivity in Middle School Youth

August 30, 2019
GPS devices

Date: September 2018

Title: Geocaching the 4-H Way Inspires Positivity in Middle School Youth

Team: Matthew Dice, Tami Mosier

Purdue Extension Goals: Enhancing Positive Life Skills, Promoting Healthy Living, Supporting Career Preparation


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology is one of the most prominent advances of the 21st Century.  The range of real world applications is enormous, and are well-documented including military, travel, meteorology, recreation, and agriculture.  Global Positioning technology provides Purdue Extension an avenue to deliver integrated programming to youth audiences.

What Has Been Done

A 4-H program called "Geocaching the 4-H Way" incorporates not only Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts but also the 4-H mission areas of Civic Engagement and Healthy Living.  At the invitation of a local middle school, 4-H educators from Purdue Extension-LaGrange and Steuben counties designed and delivered a geospatial learning program for 93 seventh grade students.  Youth were exposed to STEM (coordinates and triangulation); Healthy Living (exercise from geocaching); and Civic Engagement (picking up trash while geocaching).


At the end of the one day program, youth were administered a free choice, anonymous, and confidential evaluation with raw data converted to Qualtrics format.  Of the 93 students who engaged in the geospatial learning event, 88 youth completed the written evaluation, yielding a 95% response rate.

While participating in the school enrichment program, 84% of the respondents shared they practiced healthy living by walking, and 79% noted they felt physically active. Using the GPS devices to track each expedition, 93 youth at Prairie Heights traveled a total combined distance of 19.5 miles.

77% reported geocaching caused them to spend quality time with family and friends and to interact socially.  76% reported they enjoyed participating in a high-tech outdoor adventure, and 82% indicated they liked experiencing the thrill of the hunt.  72% of the respondents indicated they used problem solving and connected with the environment. 

Despite the notions that teenage culture is full of negativity and bullying, it is important to note 68% of the respondents shared that geocaching promoted a positive attitude. Several youth commented, saying, "It was awesome."  Another said, "We enjoyed being outside, enjoying the hunt, and the opportunity to hang out with friends."

Outcomes 4-H - Retired October 2018

Healthy Living

Hea 1.7 (NIFA CO2.1.c.): Youth will reduce sedentary activity = 109


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