Telling students to get lost has its rewards

(Last Updated On: March 6, 2014)

For three days at the end of last year, Year 9 and 10 embarked on Papatoetoe High School’s first ever project-based learning exercises – among them ‘Get Lost!’, as Gerard MacManus explains.

I have a passion for technology, especially ICT. When I was asked what could be done as a three-day project, I wanted to find a way for students to share this passion.

I immediately thought of an exciting workshop that I was involved in at ULearn … and

‘Get Lost!’ was born, a project where we used cellphones, GPS devices and Auckland

public transport to take part in ‘geocaching’.

Day One: Introduction and street orienteering around Papatoetoe

This exercise was clue based involving a map of our suburb. Students were required to find the answer using an unnamed map. Groups started at three-minute intervals, and teachers were positioned around the course. They had to text through answers and PXT certain landmarks along the way. Three groups managed to get lost in the process! The afternoon was spent getting to know the Garmin GPS etrex unit.

Day Two: Geocaching in the Auckland Domain

This was a great activity that the students enjoyed. They were given clues which they had to decrypt to find 10 caches hidden around Auckland Domain. We used a simple caesar cypher, which shifts the alphabet any number of letters to create a cypher (as used on Each cache contained a code that they had to text to staff. As the first texts came rolling in, it was exciting to know we had created something as teachers in which the students were actively engaged in and enjoying. Students also had to find various statues and PXT through a photo of them stood with it.

Day Three: An amazing race

The third day was a mixture of TV’s The Amazing Race and geocache activities around North Head and downtown Auckland. It followed the same technology set up but with new terrain and slightly harder clues.

Would I do this again?

Yes. This year I plan to use the Auckland public transport system a little bit more with NEXTbike bikes ( These are bikes placed around downtown Auckland that the public can hire and use, although MAXX has come up with a good offer for us for two days of train and ferry travel. I’d also like to thank 2degrees for providing 36 SIM cards, one for each student and teacher involved in the project.

I received some great feedback from one of the students via text: “I fully enjoyed the whole event! The clues, the running around and the awesome teamwork! I loved the ferry to Devonport! Mint Az, asking people random stuff! But the best part would have been knowing that our team worked hard and didn’t give up and held each other strong. Oh and the great workout! Hehe. Thanks Sir.”

Gerard MacManus teaches at Papatoetoe High School.

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Categories: Article, Issue 26

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