GPS & GIS Lesson Plans


We started using GPS and GIS with our 5th-8th grade students during the 2005-2006 school year. I will post new lessons and activities as they are developed. If you have any ideas to share, please e-mail them to me.

Need training in GPS & GIS technology?  Visit the website to find a schedule of upcoming workshops.

GPS Lessons - Lessons and activities that I have created for my students...

GPS Hide & Seek
Students use GPS receivers to mark hiding spots for "treasures" and challenge other teams to find them. The download includes a student worksheet and teacher information.
Student Worksheet - GPS Hide & Seek (pdf)
Also available ... Garmin Quick Tips (pdf) - A handy reference guide I created for my students to help them learn how to use the Garmin eTrex Legend receivers to mark and locate waypoints.

Mapping the Refuge
During this activity, students use GPS receivers to mark an observation spot at our local wildlife refuge and record data and observations to compare the seasonal changes in our area. The download includes a student worksheet and teacher information.
Student Worksheet - Mapping the Refuge (pdf)

GPS Artists
During this activity, students use GPS receivers to "write" their initials or draw a simple diagram. They download the data into their mapping software to see how accurate they were.  The download includes a student worksheet and teacher information.
Student Worksheet - GPS Artists (pdf)


GPS Logic Challenge
During this activity, students work in groups and use GPS receivers to locate various waypoints in our schoolyard. They gather clues at the waypoints that will help them solve a logic problem. This activity was developed with a math teacher at our school for use in her Problem Solving class.
Activity Worksheets  - Teacher Information (pdf), Version 1Worksheets (pdf), Version 2 Worksheets (pdf), Challenge Clues (pdf), and Answer Key (pdf).
NOTE:  The worksheets for Version 1 gives students the waypoint numbers, while Version 2 challenges students to solve a math problem to determine the waypoints they need to visit.

Mystery Bug Challenge
I use this activity at the end of our insect unit. Students must use the GPS receivers to find a set of 4 clues hidden around the schoolyard. The PDF download includes a student worksheet, starting clues for each round, and clue cards for the rounds. I also included a copy of a map that I use to keep track of the waypoints where the clues are hidden.

GeoTroopers - (PDF Download)
One of my Survivor Science activities requires students to use GPS receivers to find waypoints in our schoolyard to complete a challenge.  There are a total of 7 challenges - each with four questions that must be answered at each waypoint. The four questions relate to tree identification, plant identification, insect classification, and ecology factoids. Students are provided with a tree identification book, an insect book, and a periodic table. They may also use their textbooks if they want to carry them around. You will need to print copies of the challenge cards as well as the ecology questions and insect pictures. The questions and pictures need to be placed in film canisters and hidden at the correct locations.
NOTE:  If you don't have access to GPS receivers, you can place numbered flags (or other markers) around the schoolyard to match the waypoints listed on the challenge cards. See my GeoTroopers map for an example. Since this challenge will need to be tailored to your schoolyard, it is also available as a Microsoft Word document.

Amazing GPS Race (PDF Download)
I developed this activity with the help of local community members to provide a challenge for teachers participanting in the Have GPS Will Travel workshop presented by Ed & Nancy Gorny of Modeled after the Amazing Race TV show, teams had to use their GPS units to find a cache and complete a specific task in order to receive the next clue. The download provides an overview of the race, listing of the cache clues and tasks, and other resources. A PowerPoint presentation that I used to introduce the race is also available.

Earth Quest
My parter and I developed this activity for our Science Club kids to celebrate Earth Day.  The Earth Quest is a version of the Amazing GPS Race with an environmental twist. It consists of 8 quests or routes - each with two microcaches and a final challenge game.  The students compete to see which team can be the fastest to complete the entire race as well as have the best scores on each of the challenges. An EarthQuest PowerPoint is available - I use it to introduce the event and GPS technology . It also includes information about geocaching, rules for the event, and tips for the teams.

Earth Quest Materials:  
Teacher Information - Includes an overview of each quest and the challenges as well as tips to help you prepare for your event.
Cache Clues - Clues that need to be hidden inside film canisters and placed at various waypoints in your schoolyard
Quest Cards - Provides information teams need to navigate the schoolyard
Schoolyard Map - A map of our schoolyard to give you an idea of where I located each waypoint and the challenges
Challenge Station Signs - Provides the title of the challenge and the waypoint
Team Worksheet - Teams record their waypoints and answers on this page along with the scores for each challenge
Scoring Chart - An Excel spreadsheet to help you score the teams and determine the winners

CSI Adventure
I developed this geocaching activity for use with the 2009 CSI summer camp program at the Smithsonian in DC. For this activity, teams of students use GSP receivers to find 10 "evidence" caches. Each cache contains a cache card with 3-4 questions the students must answer or tasks they need complete. Each cache has a different theme and relate to the material the students investigated during the camp. After a team completes a cache and has all the correct answers, they are provided with a clue card that will help them determine the next waypoint in the adventure.

Teacher Information (PDF)
CSI Adventure Presentation (PPT)
Cache Cards (PDF)
Clue Cards (PDF)
Group Answer Sheet (PDF)
Answer Key (PDF)

Tree Identification
Thanks to Brian Scully for sharing his lesson that integrates tree idenditication with GPS technology. Project files includes TreeID Information, Tree ID Lab Report, and Tree ID Checkilist.

Online Resources - A great resource for educators looking for ways to use GPS technology to enhance your classroom lessons!  Visit the GPS area for ideas for geocaching, lesson plans, and more. - A great resource for ready-to-use lessons to incorporate GPS technology into your classroom.

EduScapes - Geocaching with Kids - Browse this article for tips and tricks related to geocaching with kids. The website also provides information for finding and creating geocaches as well as frequently asked questions.

GIS Day - Find resources to help you celebrate this special day with your students! 

Google Earth - A very cool program from the folks at Google!  Download this program to your computer and start exploring the Earth in new ways. - This site features several "games" using GPS receivers that might give you a few ideas for your classroom activities.  

Trimble - All About GPS - Online tutorials introduce students to the basics of GPS and provides an overview of how GPS technology is used today.

Have a favorite GPS resource to share? Use my contact form to send me a message!


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The Science Spot was developed in March 1999 by Tracy Tomm Science Teacher @ Havana Junior High, Havana, IL.  Activities, lessons, & worksheets available on any page of this web site are intended for use by a single teacher in his/her classroom or to share at educational conferences.  Reproduction for commercial use or profit is not permitted without the consent of Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm. Visit my Frequently Asked Questions page for more details.