07 September 2011

New geocaching trail for education groups

Technotrail brings exciting exploration to Rievaulx Abbey.

Forget the guidebook, children visiting Rievaulx Abbey on school trips can now make use of the latest technology to uncover some of the secrets of the Cistercian ruins as English Heritage launches its first geocache trail for education visits to Rievaulx.

School girl on a geocache trail

Education groups wishing to participate in the geocache trail can pre-book GPS devices with English Heritage's regional education team.  The groups will be given six sets of co-ordinates corresponding with six 'caches' - plastic boxes containing fun activities and objects that will encourage children to find out more about life in the abbey.

"Making sure that children are truly engaged with their environment is one of our largest challenges, so by combining history with cutting-edge technology and turning a site visit into a treasure hunt, we are confident that we can add a whole new dimension to the trip," comments Sarah Bowden, acting education manager for English Heritage's North Territory.  "By learning about co-ordinates, we are also incorporating valuable cross-curricular skills including geography and ICT into the visit in an accessible way that children love."

When using the GPS devices, the arrow on screen points in a straight line to the location where it is hidden, but with Rievaulx's walls providing additional barriers along the way, participants will have to work out different routes, which will take them through many different parts of the site.  The caches can also be hunted in any order, so even larger groups can undertake the trails without everyone clashing as they search for different caches.

"Unlike other geocache trails, where participants have to lift rocks to find the cache, our caches are all in open locations - although as the GPS co-ordinates are only accurate to around a six metre diameter, we can still be quite cunning in where they are located," adds Sarah.  "Similarly, there is no requirement to remove or replace the contents of the box, as happens with many traditional caches - the participant leaves the contents in the box for the next group."

The geocache trail at Rievaulx Abbey is the first for English Heritage in the Yorkshire region, with plans underway to offer similar trails at other sites across the North. Other pilot schemes are taking place around the country, including Witley Court & Gardens in Worcestershire.

Education groups wishing to participate in the Rievaulx trail and borrow GPS devices should pre-book by contacting English Heritage's Northern education team on 01904 601917.

Families can also participate using GPS-enabled smartphones.  The co-ordinates can be downloaded on www.eh-edu-geocache.co.uk.  "We would recommend that people using smartphones download one of the geocaching apps that are widely available, many of them completely free, as standard navigation software can struggle to manage the change of walking direction around the grounds," adds Sarah.

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