The Education team at English Heritage is to introduce its first geocache trails (technological treasure hunts) specially designed for learning groups and families. The first trails will be piloted at Witley Court on 15 July and the Festival of History on 16 and 17 July. If successful, others will be developed at one selected site in each region where sets of Global Positioning System (GPS) units will be loaned out to users.
Learners and families will be able to use geocache trails to search and find special features (such as exceptional views or significant architectural details) or geocaches (boxes) carefully positioned to ensure that the environment is unharmed and containing all sorts of interesting facts and activities. For instance, on 15 July at Witley Court in the West Midlands, staff will be piloting a trail which incorporates six geocaches and inspires users to estimate measurements, write poems and examine nature in the exceptional grounds of the once grand and important mansion. Learning groups and families will then be able to use the trail using the coordinates supplied.
And over the following two days (16 and 17 July) at the Festival of History, Northamptonshire, families visiting the Education tent will be able to use GPS units to go on a different type of trail - finding actual re-enactors from different periods of history!
David Sheldon, Education manager for the Midlands, says "Lots of people are finding that geocaching is challenging and fun. It engages learners and puts them in control of their own learning and it can be used by a wide variety of ages and abilities, in teams or as individuals. Geocaching can be used to direct learners to information and places both physical and ephemeral that they may not have accessed or thought to access otherwise, like taking in a particular view and achieving a sense of the monument's place in the landscape, or finding a previously 'unknown' historical detail".
The Witley Court trail should take about an hour and a half to complete and incorporates activities to stimulate the senses. "The family and staff at Witley Court must have come in to these gardens and probably sat, thought and listened, just like today's geaocache users. Many things have changed at Witley Court but some things will hopefully always stay the same," says David Sheldon.
Sets of GPS units have been purchased to be loaned out to learning groups visiting specific prime properties in each region of the country and if the Witley Court pilot trail proves successful, others will be developed and launched from September including trails at Stonehenge, Kenwood House in London, Whitby, Great Yarmouth and Deal.