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Got 'cache?

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By Brent Schanding

Landmark News Service

Visitors to the Henry County Local won't likely notice, but velcroed somewhere around the office grounds is a small weatherproof container that holds a logbook and a special message. It's exact location is concealed from "mugglers" who might attempt to vandalize or steal the device.

It's part of a worldwide treasure-hunting game, where participants use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to hide-and-seek what's known as 'geocache.'

More than 540,000 geocaches — pronounced geo-cash — are registered on various websites devoted to the game. Geocaches can be found in more than 100 countries and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

The game replaces the 150-year-old "letterboxing," which uses references to landmarks and clues embedded in stories.

Don't quite get it?

Then ask a seventh-grader.

About 20 Henry County Middle School seventh-graders have planted geocache treasures across the county in hopes that others will find them. They're documenting their learning experiences on the Internet to showcase local landmarks, said Mitzi Shields, the school's technology and media teacher, who's overseeing the student-learning project.

"Students love technology and we came up with a way to incorporate the handheld GPS units to teach mapping skills and also about the world of geocaching," said Shields, an avid geocacher who spent her 20th wedding anniversary geocaching in the south Caribbean islands.

"They are all over," she said. "So the students came up with the idea to create web pages of different places around Henry County and then hide a geocache at the location."

The project integrated communication, math and analytical skills, Shields said, and students say they've learned a lot from the project.

"I learned how to use the GPS system and how to make a website," said student Shelby Abrams, who hid her device somewhere at the county board of education office. "I also learned a lot about Henry County."

Several geocachers have already found some of the students' treasures hidden at landmarks across the county, including the one hidden at the Local. A tracker who found the device at the newspaper recalled the building formerly served a restaurant, in an Internet posting.

Student Jason Banta, who hid the device at the newspaper said the project was fun.

"It's a big game of hide-and-seek," he said.

The students have published their geocaches on the geocaching.com website.

Five technology students: Jason Banta, Stephen Archer, Nicole Reed, Shelby Abrams, and James Pollard will present their geocaching project at the state Student Technology Leadership Program conference in Lexington next month.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.