Last updated: 27 August 2014

Have fun while students (and teachers) gain confidence using GPS units!

Participants in a GCOOS workshop for educators learn how to use their handheld GPS units while playing a fun, team-building game adapted from the South Dakota State Parks (see Image courtesy of Chris Simoniello.

This is a zero prep activity for small or large groups. Two people can play against each other. 20 people can play as two groups of 10, etc. Most groups will complete the activity within 40 minutes.

You will need:

  • At least 2 handheld GPS units, one per group
  • 10 small stakes or nails. Tie a small piece of ribbon to each (use two colors; prepare five of each color).
  • Instructions for using the GPS if you are not familiar with the unit.

Step by step directions to “nail” down this challenge.

  • Divide into 2 groups. Each group should have the same number of GPS units.
  • Meet at a designated starting point.
  • Turn the GPS on. Make sure the GPS locks on at least 4 satellites.
  • Check your battery level. If it is less that 1/4, change batteries.
  • Review with how to MARK and Find or GoTo waypoints
  • Clear memory in your GPS before beginning
  • Each group gets 5 stakes
  • You will have 20 MINUTES to hide and mark all 5 stakes.
  • First group goes to an area directed by staff. The second group goes to a separate area (opposite sides of a building works well – out of sight of each other).
  • Each group hides its nails one at a time. Be creative here. Don’t make it too easy! Hide each nail as far apart from the other nails as possible. The ribbons on each nail MUST be visible from 5 feet away, but you can still camouflage them in a bush, or stick it in the crook of a tree, etc.
  • Carefully hold each GPS over the hidden nail and MARK that spot. Be sure and save the marked waypoint for each nail on each GPS!
  • Repeat for all five nails.
  • When you have hidden, MARKed and Saved the location of each nail on each GPS, return to the starting point.
  • The two groups then trade GPS units.
  • Review with the groups how to FIND or GO TO, SELECT a WAYPOINT, and navigate to that spot. Note: You must “move” before the GPS will give you an accurate direction of travel. START WALKING, THEN LOOK AT THE GPS!
  • Most people like to navigate using the COMPASS page. Press the PAGE or NAV button till you get to this page. Follow the dark arrow on the compass dial and count down the distance. When you get within 15 feet of your destination, start looking around!
  • Each group goes back out to the area where the other group hid their nails and follows the FIND or GoTo on the GPS to find the hidden nails one at a time.
  • Pick up each nail as the group finds it (Hint: Respect our Parks – How about picking up "other" litter as you search for nails?)
  • When all the nails your group can find have been picked up, return to the starting point. Report to the staff at the start how the "nail biting" search went.
  • Turn in your GPS and recovered nails, and you are done!