Geocaching for Blue Switch Day with Hillside School

Hillside School Seniors Class – Geocaching for Blue Switch Day – 5/5/21

What was the event?

Hillside School, Cumnock and East Ayrshire Council Learning Outdoors Support Team (LOST) partnered up to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Blue Switch Day.

To mark the event, pupils from the Senior Class at Hillside School went to the Woodroad Park, Cumnock to use GPS technology on the Geocache App to search for two Geocache treasures within a short walk from their school.

What is Blue Switch Day?

It is no secret, that Global Positioning System (GPS) is a huge part of our lives.  When we find the fastest way to work, check the weather at our location, tag our location on social media, or order a dinner from an app, GPS is responsible for it all.  We can even add finding a geocache to this list!  This is all thanks to a change made to GPS in the year 2000.  When GPS was first developed, it was only available for use by the U.S Military.  Eventually, GPS was opened up to civilians, but with Selective Availability.  This meant that although everyone had access, the accuracy was lowered for civilians.  On 2nd May 2000, the U.S. government ‘flipped the switch’ so high-accuracy GPS was available to everyone.  For reasons unknown, geocachers know this as Blue Switch Day.  However, there really wasn’t a blue switch!

Opening up accurate GPS technology to everyone around the globe launched a flow of innovation and new cutting-edge technology that changed the world forever.  It created an entirely new world of possibilities.  It’s not a coincidence the first geocache was hidden on May 3, 2000, and the game of geocaching was born!

What happened?

Two senior pupils from Hillside School, a classroom assistant and LOST staff used GPS technology and the Geocache app on an iPhone to navigate a walk from the school on the Barony Campus, Cumnock to the Woodroad Park.  Once in the park, pupils used the GPS with support to navigate to the location of the Geocache treasure hidden within the park.  They had to work out which way they were facing, the direction they had to travel and how near or far they were to the treasure.  Once the location was found, pupils had to ID a tree from a description and photographs to find the correct one and then get on their hands and knees to explore the base and find the treasure!  The two pupils were then able to retrieve a piece of the treasure hidden and replace it with something of their own, as is Geocaching custom, before returning it to its hiding place to be found by others.

Willie White, Education Officer, said, “Could there be a better way of demonstrating science, technology and maths combined in the real world than geocaching?  Pupils understand the significance of these subjects through a fun, outdoor activity; who doesn’t love finding hidden treasure?  Using the free app on any phone to adventure out and find hidden places on your doorstep to all over the world, really opens the door to a lifetime of exploration and learning, but warned, it can be addictive!”

Other East Ayrshire schools will celebrate the 21st Blue Switch Birthday by placing 21 new geocaches at significant cultural and heritage locations around East Ayrshire for everyone to explore.  Delivered through the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership and organised by EAC Learning Outdoors Support Team, many of the new caches will highlight special places recently restored and returned to community access as a legacy of East Ayrshire’s coal mining heritage.

Geocaching is worldwide and accessible.  It is free to anyone with a phone, if you want to try; download the Geocache App, register an account, find a geocache and share your experience, just like these pupils.

Case study compiled by:

Alyson Conquer, COACh Teacher, East Ayrshire Learning Outdoors Support Team

With thanks to:

Hillside School pupils

Janet McKechnie, Principal Teacher, Hillside School

Mary McEwan, Classroom Assistant, Hillside School

Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership

Further information can be found at:


Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership:

Blue Switch Day Blog Post:

What is geocaching?:

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