We're winding down the Birds of Prey navigation unit with a couple of hands-on, outdoor activities. I'm so thankful the weather is cooperating today. For today, we went straight to the park and sat under the shade of the trees for our snack, and then we went on a quest for treasure, using some real compasses.
I learned how to use a compass way back in grade 7. Needless to say, I've forgotten most of what I learned, but it came back quite easily, thanks to Nicholas knowing how to use a compass (from Cubs) and the few instructions that came with the compass. I also found help at this Learn Orienteering website. And we got some extra practice as we went out to the park to set up the quest.
Our quest was pretty simple - follow the orienteering instructions to locate each of the 8 flags scattered throughout the park. Each flag had a letter on it, and when all the letters were collected they could be unscrambled to make a word associated with our activity. Participants would take a flag from the last location and return it to me for a prize, to celebrate them successfully completing their quest.
I chose to use flags stapled to the ground instead of pylons or flags attached to poles or sticks because I wanted the group to rely more on their compasses than on using the visual cues. I also chose to set up two different routes so the groups wouldn't follow one another and not use the instructions. Lastly, I set up the teams so that there was one person with more experience teamed with one with less experience.
Here are the materials we used, and more thorough instructions for setting it up:
Materials for setup:
~ clipboard with paper and pencil
~ scrap fabric for flags (one for each location, plus one for each child at the last station)
~ garden staples for securing the flags to the ground
~ permanent marker (if doing a word scramble)
1. Use the permanent marker to write a letter on each flag that will be used in the word scramble. We left the starting flag and the last flags blank.
2. Determine where your starting position will be and secure a flag to that spot using a garden staple.
3. Set pylons in the other locations. We used pylons to lay out the course so they would be clearly visible when we went to write up the instructions, and so that we could make different routes using the same locations for each team. My children set them randomly throughout the park. Some were close together and some were far apart - this doesn't matter too much.
4. Stand at your starting position and select the next location you will orient to. Using your compass, determine which direction you will need to face, in degrees. Then walk towards that location, counting the number of steps. Write down the degrees and the number of steps in your instructions. Replace the pylon with a flag and secure it with a garden staple. Note the letter on the flag so that you know the correct sequence for the word scramble.
5. From your current location, repeat step 4 until all locations have been included in the instructions.
6. If you want to write up several routes, simply put the pylons back over the flags, then repeat steps 4 and 5, using a different route. We made sure the start and end positions were the same for each iteration of the course.
Materials for orienteering game:
~ compasses (one for each child)
~ clipboard with instruction sheet and pencil or pen
~ prizes (optional)
1. Review with the group how to use the compasses. Go through a couple of examples before they start their quest.
2. Divide the group into teams. I tried to match those more experienced with using a compass with those who were using one for the first time.
3. Describe the activity to the teams.
4. Give each team a clipboard with an instruction sheet and a pencil or pen.
5. Show each group where the start position is and let them begin!
I preferred using map compasses that had a travelling arrow for this activity. The travelling arrow (explained at the Learn Orienteering website) helped the children understand and see the direction they needed to move in better than other types of compasses without such a prominent feature. I also found that I needed to remind them to hold their compasses level, move slowly, and to pick out some sort of landmark to walk towards (instead of looking at their compass and wandering off course).
I think we will definitely do this activity again!