5 Ways to Trick Students Into Learning with Pokemón Go


It’s hardly news that most of us view the world in an augmented way—through our smartphones. And it’s not unusual to see folks wandering the streets half-blindly with eyes glued to their screens. But Pokémon Go may still have sparked a few things: it’s gotten people outside to observe the world around them. And, to any geographer’s delight, they’re using maps along the way.

For those not yet initiated, Pokémon Go is a free augmented reality game for mobile. Relying on a smartphone’s built-in GPS system, the game entices players to real-world places in search of virtual items or creatures. Items tend to appear around cultural landmarks, where players must physically go to get the goods.

Again and again, the best advice I’ve gotten from teachers is to follow the students’ passions—to work with, not against, their energy. Well, the people have spoken.

Use our resources to create your own Pokémon Go-themed map.


Activity Ideas

  • 1. Learn about the geography of your state.
  • In groups, have students create a Pokémon-themed board game with a National Geographic printable tabletop map of your state.
    • Since Pokémon Go goodies are often placed at significant landmarks, use this opportunity to study iconic spots in your state.
      • Ask students to research and plot out ten or more locations where they’d place Poké Stops, or areas to collect resources. They should be able to defend why their chosen spots are relevant to the state’s culture or history.
    • Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri credits his childhood interest in bug collecting with inspiring the Pokémon universe. Why not let the native animals in your state do some inspiring of their own?
      • Guide your students to research common and endangered species in your state. These can become your “state pokémon.” Students should use real species population numbers to determine the rarity or prevalence of the creatures in the game.
Scanned by: Retouched by: DT-AS QC'd by: DT-MS
The National Geographic headquarters (buildings front left) is home to several Pokéstops. Photo by Steve Raymer, National Geographic
  • 2. Stretch students’ mapping skills.
  • Using Google Maps alongside the Pokémon Go app, view the area around your school. Ask students to draw a map with the walking route they’d like to take to visit the most nearby Poké Stops.
    • Add some math practice by giving students a time limit for the length of the walk. If it takes 20 minutes to walk one mile, how many miles can their route be?
  • 3. Practice the metric system.
  • Did I just say “miles?” How very American of me. Pokémon Go measures distance in kilometers. This is particularly relevant for eggs, which players sometimes pick up at Poké Stops. Before they can hatch, eggs need to be incubated until the player has walked a certain distance (in kilometers.)
    • Once your students have played the game enough to snatch up a few eggs (they probably already have), task them with converting the hatching distances to miles.
  • 4. Discover real animals with #PokeBlitz.
  • Just by virtue of being out in the world, many Pokémon Go players are stumbling upon real-life animals. Some scientists have jumped at this chance to plug biodiversity.
    • An entomologist named Morgan Jackson recently launched the hashtag #PokeBlitz to help Pokémon players identify the creatures they find in the wild.
      • “PokeBlitz” is a play on BioBlitz, an event where scientists, teachers, students, and community members identify and document as many species as possible in a given area.
        • Using a class twitter account, challenge your students to photograph and post as many real-life animals as possible with the tag #PokeBlitz. They’re bound to be tickled when a scientist replies to ID their discoveries.


  • 5. Cultivate a journalist’s curiosity.
  • While Pokémon Go’s massive overnight success has led to some problems, it has also been widely praised for building a fresh type of in-person community.
    • Safely—and with a chaperone—let your student journalists get the scoop. Visit any popular location in your city and you’re likely to find at least a few players (and they are easy to identify!). Encourage your students to interview them about themselves and their interest in the game.



Gizmodo: Pokémon Go is Secretly Teaching Americans the Metric System

LA Times: Pokémon Go players are finding real animals while searching for digital ones.

Discovery Education: Pokémon Go in the classroom

WSHU Public Radio Group: Building Community Thanks to A Little Game Called Pokémon Go

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