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Corresponding Author

K. Colton Flynn

Abstract

Research in geographic education has a strong focus on the improvement of spatial thinking. For Millennials, spatial thinking curriculum could benefit from the inclusion of experiential-based learning activities. However, as universities are faced with larger class sizes, new approaches need to be incorporated by the instructors to offer improved learning environments. Courses introducing basic geography skills often incorporate lessons concerned with spatial thinking and global perspectives. Thus, the instruction of geographic tools such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), longitude, latitude, and remote sensing offer prime opportunities for experiential-based learning in geographic pedagogy. This research aimed to employ a low-cost experiential-based learning method incorporating a geocaching activity to strengthen spatial thinking skills. The method was employed at universities in both the United States and Ethiopia with non-geography major students at different levels of study. The effectiveness of the method was measured utilizing the pre- and post- spatial thinking ability test (STAT). Additionally, the student’s perceptions and experience with the activity were further explored through a survey. The results suggest that the geocaching activity significantly (t(133)=-2.914, p=0.004) improved the spatial thinking of the grouping of all students. These students showed significant improvements in orientation and directional abilities (p=0.000), spatial overlay and dissolve (p=0.033), and points, networks, regions/ spatial shapes and patterns (p=0.003). Additionally, students suggested they strongly agree that they enjoyed the activity (85.83%) and that the activity stimulated their thinking more than a lecture (79.69%). The findings suggest that the incorporation of an experiential-learning activity in the undergraduate classroom may lead to improvements in student spatial thinking.

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