I am thinking about finishing out the year in my Ag Lab Class with GPS. Does anyone have any lessons or activities they would be willing to share? We have hand held GPS units we can use.
Might too late but this may help. See links at the bottom of the page.
I know it's been a while since this was originally posted, but I thought I'd jump in. I wrote my Master's thesis on GPS in agricultural education and did work with several schools in the local area. We found that using GPS technology moderately increases student leadership development.
Anyway, here are a few ideas:
- Try geocaching. Geocaching is a worldwide, GPS-based scavenger hunt game. You can hide a private geocache for your students and have them try to find it using their GPS units. You can make it more educational by forcing them to solve a puzzle before you can find the right coordinates. Some geocaches also require physical challenges, like one that I built. It involves a team plugging up holes in a PVC pipe attached to a fence while the final member pours water down the pipe so the geocache floats to the top. Visit www.geocaching.com. I've been geocaching for 7 years, and it's been a blast!
- Teach typical GPS terminology such as "waypoint," "latitude," "longitude," etc. Have your students use a map to learn how to find a point's latitude and longitude. Have them guess what their school's coordinates are, and then let them use the GPS units to see if they are right.
- Have students research different ways that GPS is used in agriculture, such as precision farming, animal ID and tracking, and property line marking.
- GPS uses trilateration to work. In other words, you need a signal from at least three different satellites to calculate a point. This is a perfect opportunity to explore the Pythagorean theorem/geometric proofs/other math concepts.
- The history of GPS is interesting, too. It all started thanks to Sputnik being launched in the 1950s, and was originally used to pilot Navy submarines. It remained a military program until May of 2000 when President Clinton allowed civilians access to GPS technology.
- Also, there is some funny stuff going on with the clocks on GPS satellites. Due to relativity, they seem to tick faster than the clocks back on earth, and so have to constantly recalibrate themselves. That happens because objects closer to a massive object (in this case, the Earth) experience time more slowly than those further away. This could lead into an interesting physics discussion.
- Have students use their GPS units to locate or identify trees. I did this in a college arboriculture class. We were given coordinates that led to different trees on campus. We had to identify the tree, take a leaf, and then make a left collection/tree ID book. This would be good for nursery/landscape practice.
- Use GPS units to measure out a piece of land. Students can walk the land/building/location and mark waypoints every hundred feet or so. Then they can figure out perimeter and area.
- If you can integrate the GPS units with a computer, you can do some cool things in Google Earth. You can take the GPS readings from the land measuring activity and show them on the computer over an image of the actual land. In college I had to use a GPS and Google Earth to map my usual route from home to school, and then map an alternate route. Next I had to use the waypoints I collected, as well as traffic patterns, lights, and speed limits to prove that the normal route I took was faster than the alternate route.
- I also had to test the accuracy of a GPS receiver by sitting outside in one place and marking waypoints every minute or so for about fifteen minutes.
- Another good practice I did in college was making a map of the campus. We had to walk around campus and mark waypoints at ten assigned locations and five of our choice (though they had to be at least .10 of a mile apart). We also had to note our receiver's accuracy in feet at each stop, the time we visited the waypoint, the distance from the last waypoint we'd visited, and the direction we had to walk to get there from the last waypoint.
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