The O.R.I.E.N.T. Project

Outdoor Research In Environmental Science, Navigation and Technology

Piloted in the fall of 2005 with students from New Garden Friends School, and developed with a generous grant from the Burroughs Welcome Fund, the O.R.I.E.N.T. Project engages middle school students in environmental science, technology, geography and math lessons, at a level appropriate to their age, interests and maturity. The program utilizes GPS (Global Positioning System) units and the growing interest in “geocaching” to explore Penn's natural surroundings.

Learn more about the sport of "geocaching".

Lessons on the first day focus on becoming familiar with the use of topographic maps, latitude and longitude, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), compasses, etc. Students are also introduced to the high-tech passion of “geocaching”, in which small caches are hidden on Penn’s campus. The specific latitude & longitude coordinates of these caches are then shared, allowing students to seek out each cache using GPS units, topographic maps, and their own wits. On the second and third days, students will attempt to find these caches in the hills and forests of our campus. Upon finding a cache, students will discover that there is more to this location than a box with a few trinkets or notes from previous “geocachers”. Each cache contains instructions for a specific scientific or mathematical exploration, based upon the surrounding physical, biological or even cultural features. Students will complete these explorations to the satisfaction of their instructor, prior to being given the coordinates for the next cache.

See sample schedules for The ORIENT Project

Lead teachers are able to select a specific focus for their visit, and therefore a focus for the various caches & explorations that students attempt to find and complete. Topics of exploration can be concentrated in life sciences or earth sciences, or may take a more interdisciplinary approach to include math, creative writing, or even team challenges.

Explorations are designed and chosen to coordinate with and support classroom lessons and the NC Standard Course of Study. Specific cache ideas may include:

Biotic Inventories, Population Counts, etc

Stream Flow

Using & Creating Dichotomous Keys

Mathematics Challenges

Wildlife Habitat Surveys

Forestry Measurements

Stream/Lake Health using Biotic Indices

Hillside Slope & Erosion

Team Challenges

Plankton Netting

Soil Testing

Penn staff led GPS-related presentations at several recent teacher conferences. For those interested in viewing or downloading the PowerPoint files from these presentations, please click on the appropriate link below.

Project ORIENT for GCS 8th Grade Teachers





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