Finding Fun and Fitness
Play outside or watch TV inside? When given the option, children around the country are choosing indoor activity; a choice that health officials fear is contributing to childhood obesity.
WFSU's Kim Kelling Engstrom and her community partners have a solution: geocaching. Often described as a high-tech treasure hunt, Kelling Engstrom sees geocaching as a way to entice kids into exploring nature while exercising their bodies and minds. "It's a great way to teach kids about mapping and navigation while promoting fun, physical activity." With that idea, the Kids Hunt for Health initiative was born.
WFSU and its partnering coalition of schools, neighborhood centers and parks created a series of activities to introduce geocaching to families and educators. Using the PBS NOVA and Geocaching.com Web sites, participants learned to use the hand-held GPS tool and sampled kid-friendly geocache hikes.
The results of Kids Hunt for Health were fantastic, said Kelling Engstrom. Participant surveys showed that over half the youth said they would rather be outside geocaching than inside watching TV, and over half hoped they would geocache again with their families.
Laurie Molina, Ph.D., coordinator of the Florida Geographic Alliance and one of the partners in the initiative, agreed with the assessment. "It was fabulous! ...And anyone can do this with a little training and some practice. Really you just have to be smart enough to turn the GPS on and then turn the kids loose with it."