GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 187-9
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


LAZAR, Kelly Best1, MOYSEY, Stephen M.1, WAGNER, John R.1, BRAME, Scott1, ABBOTT, Kathryn A.1, WYKEL, James M.1, DUVALL, Alexander V.2 and NGUYEN, Sharlen1, (1)Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0919, (2)School of Computing, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634,

Field experiences have always been a traditional part of any geoscience degree program, however for most non-majors, learning is restricted to a large lecture hall. Large class sizes prevent many students from having the transformational field experiences that engage students in geoscience. When field trips for large classes are commonly impractical and cost-prohibitive, how do we provide students with equivalent engaging experiences?

Modern technology could provide at least a partial solution. Geocaching, a treasure hunt that encourages students to go outside and learn about the planet, has been leveraged as an extracurricular activity that awards credit to students in introductory geology courses. Several geocaches have been created around Clemson University’s campus to not only encourage outside engagement with geoscience, but help students learn the natural and geologic history of their college campus. These geocaches are closely tied to topics covered in the introductory courses. The activity done at each geocache location varies by site; some ask students only to observe and hypothesize about the area, while others ask students to use scientific equipment, make measurements, graph data, and identify features.

Geocaching is ideal for student engagement because there is a low barrier to entry – only a GPS or a GPS-enabled smart phone is required to find the hidden caches. Students utilize the app on their smart phones to navigate to a geocache. To complete the activity, students complete an online form answering questions (created by us) related to the geology of the site they are visiting, and submit a photo of themselves at the location. A submission system has also been developed to easily aggregate and report scores to professors, minimizing the number of steps necessary to integrate these extra credit assignments into a gradebook.