You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Nov 14, 2009 : 4:45 p.m.

High-tech treasure hunt at Leslie Science and Nature Center teaches about environment

By Erica Hobbs


David Burgoyne, Ann Arbor, right, Robert Royce, 9, reset the coordinates on their GPS unit given to them by the Leslie Science Center as they prepare to head out on stop #2 of their "GPS Geocaching" adventure at the Science Center, Saturday afternoon, November 14th.

Lon Horwedel |

Sounds of “I found it!” filled the air Saturday afternoon as children ran through the fields of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor.

About 30 adults and children gathered to take part in the park’s second geocache search, a high-tech treasure hunt where participants use Global Positioning System devices and problem-solving skills to find objects placed at specific coordinates.

“It’s a different way of looking at the environment and surveying the land,” said Ann Arbor resident Ethan Bright, who took part in the event with his son.

Participants were divided into three teams and given separate starting coordinates leading them to their first clue. Hidden inside clear Tupperware boxes, each of the nine geocaches contained information that highlighted a certain aspect of the park.

Geocaches at locations around Leslie Science center including an American chestnut tree, the raptors’ cages and the oak savanna led teams through 50 acres of fields, prairies and forests, while teaching them about each location’s significance in nature.

A stop at the Black Pond taught participants how vernal ponds usually dry up before winter, making them a good location for amphibians but not for fish. Other stops, such as Dr. Leslie’s Gas Pump, were full of information on the center itself, which was formed after the Leslie family donated land to the city in the late 1970s.

“I liked the pond, because I saw a salamander,” said five-year-old Eric Cummings, who was on the trail with his father.


Nicholas Bruzvano, 9, left, and Robert Royce, 9, bolt down a trail at the Leslie Science Center in Ann Arbor, after getting the latest coordinates from a GPS unit they were using for their "GPS Geocaching" adventure at the Science Center, Saturday afternoon, November 14th.

Lon Horwedel |

Program Coordinator Bob Voakes said the program is a way to encourage people to get outside.

“I hope they just enjoy being outdoors and get an interest in geocaching,” he said. “It’s also one of my favorite sports.”

Voakes said he wants to host another geocaching event next November and hopes to incorporate geocaching into the center’s orienteering program, where kids learn to find their way using a map and a compass. He said it is important for them to learn to use modern technology as well.

For Chelsea resident Alex Moore, who participated with her husband and two children, the event was all about education and having fun.

“I think that an outdoor education is just as important as an indoor one,” she said. “I try to come out here as much as I can.”

Erica Hobbs is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.