FFMS GPS Amazing Race

By Hunter Haskett, Nighthawk News Magazine

Sprinting toward the baseball field with your teammates in tow and GPS in hand, it’s a race against time to reach the waypoint, present your paper to the teacher and begin the group task.

First Flight Middle School’s gym classes have been transformed into the “Amazing Geo Race,” an idea sparked by gym teacher Solomon Dixon and made possible by the Dare Education Foundation.

“It happened about 10 years ago when I was teaching at another school. ‘The Amazing Race’ was popular and I had never geo-cached before,” Dixon said. “I was messing around in our school library and found eight or nine GPS systems.”

After talking to another PE teacher, Dixon and his colleague came up with the idea to start the “Amazing Geo Race.” The activity combines geocaching and the ideas behind the popular TV show. The class is split into teams of six, with each member having a job.

“There’s different things: team captain, recorder, GPS holder and reader, photographer, step counter, cache opener, emergency runner and material collector,” Dixon said.

The students have to work together using the GPS systems to find their next waypoints. Once at a waypoint, they locate a letter, log their steps and head back to the teacher.

“They come back to us to see if everything matches up, and if everything matches up, they get a team challenge they have to complete,” Dixon said. “All of it is fun, but that’s the most fun part -- it’s fun to watch them.”

After completing the team challenge, the students head to their next waypoint. When all the letters are collected, they have to put them together to form a word. Team building and communication skills are two of the big takeaways for students participating in the race.

“We had a group that took 35 minutes to finish a challenge because they were having a hard time communicating, but that’s the beauty of the process: Eventually they realized how they needed to communicate with each other and they accomplished the challenge,” Dixon said.

The middle schoolers are able to learn these valuable life skills all while competing in a fun race thanks to a grant.

The Dare Education Foundation has an online grant portal that teachers are able to use to request funding for supplies or a project they want their classes to be able to participate in but couldn’t do with limited school budgets.

In this case, Dixon was able to receive 15 GPS units, curriculum for the GPS units and equipment to go along with GPS-oriented lessons. His students began using the new gear in January (2019), just months after he received funding for his grant request.

“I would say that it’s very successful,” Dixon said. “Kids’ interest is up. It’s allowing more students that normally wouldn’t have a high level of success in PE to have a high level of success.”

Hunter Haskett is a senior editor of First Flight High School’s Nighthawk News Magazine and wrote this story for the “DEF-ining Moments” partnership between DEF and the newspaper staff.