Thursday, June 28, 2012

Map Reading & Navigation

Some of the most fun you'll have as a Pathfinder leader is taking the kids out to do a little navigation.  You can make it a game by posting flags or something the kids can collect at various places over a wilderness area.  Mark the locations of the flags on maps you give to the kids and each unit has to go out, follow the map, navigating with a compass and tracking their progress. First one back with all their flags wins.

You can also set up a compass course for each unit to follow. Buy a set of hole punches with various shaped heads.  You can get them shaped like stars, diamonds, clubs and hearts as well as standard round and square shapes.  Set the course by hanging a different hole punch from a waymark tree, post or other landscape feature.  The last group to run the course can pick the punches up for you.  Best time on the course wins.  Sending them out spaced every 15 minutes or so also makes doing supper easier because you can feed them by units as they straggle back to camp.

Another version of navigation games is the map quest. This one calls for strategic thinking.  Give everyone the same map and send them off to collect flags, find and identify waymarks and hurry back.  The groups collect points for each flag they collect and return to camp with, for finding landmarks and telling something about them that you wouldn't know unless you'd been there and for hurrying back.  The speed of completion earns the team bonus points, so efficiency is everything.  The game becomes a contest to collect the most points. The units have to make strategic decisions along the way.  They may have to decide to not go after one point in favor of a speedier finish or to skip a flag to get a couple of landmarks that together are worth more than the flag.  There's a little math involved in this version, it's fun math.

In the meantime, one of my favorite weblogs, "The Art of Manliness" has a piece on how to read a topographical map this month that's a good introduction to the manly art of map-reading.  Print this article up for your Master Guide's notebook and read it often to stay ahead of the kids. 

Don't have a Master Guide's notebook? 

Watch this blog and I'll do a post on the subject soon.

Tom King
(c) 2012

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