GPS basics: I was lost, but now I'm found

Spring break is right around the corner, and I can hear the moaning already: “Where can we go, Mom? What can we do?” When they get to a certain age, kids seem like lost souls wandering aimlessly through the world trying to find themselves.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension of Albemarle-Charlottesville is hoping to help kids ages 10-16 find out where in the world they are with a two-day 4-H workshop on GPS Orienteering April 7-8.
Global Positioning System is like a trusty old compass with a high-tech twist. With a hand-held computer the size of a cell phone, explorers can figure out their exact position on the earth at any time, in any weather, from any place, using information received from satellites circling the planet. This GPS receiver can also determine the speed and direction in which one is traveling, and can mark a destination and tell how much longer it will take to get there.
Staci England, who runs the Extension’s 4-H programs in this area, will lead the workshop of up to 10 students at Ivy Creek Natural Area where kids can learn by doing. After some instruction on the basics of GPS and how to use the receiver, England will turn the class loose in the wilds of the woods for some fun and games of the hide and seek variety.
Teams of participants will strategically place a “treasure” somewhere in Ivy Creek’s 215 acres of forests and fields, mark the coordinates of the spot, and give these to other teams who will have to retrieve it. Halley the lost hiker (a scarecrow doll, really) is expected to be out wandering the property during the workshop, giving GPS search and rescue teams the chance to practice finding her.
England taught the workshop to a group of home-schooled kids in February, and they had so much fun they have decided to keep it going by forming a GPS club. Using GPS is not all fun and games, though; the group will use their newly acquired skill to help local parks and recreation and other governmental departments do things like map sidewalks that need to be repaired and update hiking trail maps for Walnut Creek Park.
This workshop may be just the ticket to helping kids who are lost on spring break find their way into an interest that’s really out of this world.

The 4-H GPS Orienteering Workshop is open to all kids ages 10-16. It takes place at Ivy Creek Natural Area on April 7 form 10am-3pm and April 8 from 9am-noon. The program is free, but a $10 donation is requested to cover supplies and snacks. For more information, contact Staci England at 984-0727 or  sengland@vt.edu.