HELP SAVE THE PLANET…ONE GEOCACHE AT A TIME! by Wendy Mass, bestselling children’s author of A Mango-Shaped Space and The Candymakers

When I find something I love, I tend to go all in and then I want to share it with everyone through my books. So it is with the hobby of Geocaching. In The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase, 12-year-old Miles introduces his friends to the sport of geocaching, and his knowledge of it winds up helping them solve an important mystery.

What IS Geocaching? Essentially you use the GPS built into your phone, along with a free geocaching app, to search for containers with trinkets, toys, and a logbook tucked inside. Or as cachers are fond of saying, geocachers use billions of dollars of high-tech satellite equipment to find Tupperware hidden in the woods! If you love hidden treasures, being out in nature, the spirit of community, and the joy of perseverance and discovery, then geocaching might well be for you.

It’s tremendously gratifying to watch the compass in the app count down the feet as you close in on your find, which can be in the woods, a park, in the middle of a bustling city, or any public space you can think of (with some restrictions of course). There’s even a cache hidden on the International Space Station! The containers come in all sizes—from big enough to fit a basketball, to so small and camouflaged that it looks like a metal bolt or a rock.

Geocaching is good for the planet, too! It wakes people up to the beauty of nature that they pass by every day and might not notice—a beautiful view, an oddly-shaped tree, ruins of an old building, a hidden garden, a waterfall. Searching for treasure in the great outdoors helps you see your environment with new eyes, and when you appreciate it, you want to take care of it.

To further your education of certain areas, instead of boxes to find, you can seek out an “EarthCache.” This is a geological destination where in order to claim the find, you will learn information about the spot where the compass has led you. This is a GREAT way for parents and teachers to introduce kids to geology and preservation.

Groundspeak, the main organization behind the activity, started an environmental initiative called “CITO” or Cache in, Trash out. Simply bring a bag with you to pick up any trash you see on your way. Sometimes my kids get more excited doing this, than by finding the cache! There are CITO community events held all over the world, making the geocaching game-board that we call Planet Earth cleaner and safer.

Of course there’s more to say that can fit here (including the fun of hiding your own caches!), but head over to Geocaching.com. Watch the short instructional videos, make a free account, and download the app. Then, WHEREVER in the world you find yourself, you’ll be able to pull up a list of nearby caches and you’re off and running (but not through poison ivy—leaves of three, let them be!)

Wendy Mass is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels for young people, including A Mango-Shaped Space and the Space Taxi series. Her titles have been translated into 20 languages and nominated for 76 state book awards. Visit her website at www.wendymass.com.

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