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Discussion: resources for teaching orienteering to Girl Scouts

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 3, 2019 2:19 PM # 
I've had 2 requests in recent days to teach some local Girl Scout groups a basic "intro to orienteering and map reading" class. My understanding is that the girls range in age from about 7-12, and we will likely not have access to any already mapped terrain for at least the first meeting. Anyone have resources or ideas for introducing key concepts to this age range? Ideally, I'm thinking a 1-2 hour session introducing the basics, then hopefully getting some of the more interested girls to a local(ish) meet within the next month. (We're about 1.5-2 hours from the nearest QOC events, so the logistics of getting a group of kids to an organized meet are difficult, but certainly not impossible).
Apr 3, 2019 4:25 PM # 
If you have access to a somewhat open park, you can print out a Google satellite image of the park and use that as your map. If you're at a house, you can do indoor or backyard orienteering with a simple sketch map. Or you can set up a maze and do maze orienteering.

Also, please make them aware of the OUSA orienteering skills patch program. If you can find a way to do a White course then they can earn the first patch in a 1-2 hour session.
Apr 3, 2019 4:57 PM # 
Ginger, the Youth Development Working Group is collecting a bunch of resources for this. I'll reach out via email...
Apr 4, 2019 1:18 PM # 
Troop Beverly Hills is the best story about girls-scouts and outdoor adventures
May 3, 2019 1:53 PM # 
I posted this in my log, but figured I'd post here as well for anyone who's interested. Overall, I got some good feedback and ideas for the next time I give this training, with some tweaks for different age groups. This was a group of about a dozen 9 and 10 year olds.

Also, many thanks to those of you who gave me ideas and offered your time and resources. There's a pretty good level of interest in orienteering in St. Mary's county, with some of the pertinent land owners/managers excited to make maps of their properties for use with local schools and groups, so I hope to be able to capitalize on that in the near future.

This went really well, and I think I made good progress with one of the local educational centers- they want to make a sprint map of their center, and introduce a more formalized orienteering curriculum. I think I blew the lady's mind a little when I barely mentioned the compass during my whole 1+ hour talk, as she had been planning on doing some "walk this many paces in x direction" stuff with the girls this weekend, but after watching their enthusiastic reaction to seeing the World Games promo video and doing some map interpretation/visualization games, she was all "huh, they're way more excited about that then anyone's ever been about the pace counting stuff- we should do more map games!"

So I started off with the video to get the girls' interest, then talked about all the different places I'd been orienteering- a surprisingly successful strategy since I had a girl who's dad is here on an exchange tour from Australia, and several of the girls had lived in Europe or Japan (probably shouldn't have been surprised- it is a very military-heavy community, after all). Then I brought out some maps, and asked who could read them. Their eyes all went wide, and they said, no, we can't understand these- and I countered with "sure you can! who can point to water on their map?" The girls looked, then hesitantly pointed at blue symbols. I then asked them to point to roads and buildings, which they did with increasing confidence, and it was fun to watch them get excited as they realized it wasn't so hard after all. Then I brought out some of my maps from around the world, and asked them to point to the same things, and used that to re-iterate my point about maps being a global language. The girls really liked that part.

From there, I went into more explanations about what the different colors meant, keeping it pretty simple, as I think some of that is easier to understand when you're outside, looking at the terrain. Right on cue, one of the girls asked about the contour lines, and that explanation went ok, they got the idea that the closer the lines were, the steeper the terrain, but I wish I'd brought some better visual aids. They seemed to get the basic concepts, so I brought out some local-ish maps with a white course marked on them, and we talked through if you were standing in this spot, how would you orient you map, either with or without a compass, and now that you're looking in this direction what do you see and how to you go to your control? Some of the girls immediately got the concept of visualization, route choice and catching features- I'm looking across an open field towards the woods, I can go straight towards those trees, or I can go along the road/trail. I should stop when I get to the trail intersection and turn left. My control will be at the bend in the trail. Originally, the plan was to go outside with some printed out google maps of the neighborhood and find about 6-10 controls, but a thunderstorm quashed that idea, which is why I did the visualization excercise instead. I actually think it worked better than my original plan, except that a couple of girls weren't quite getting it and seemed more interested in looking at maps of Portugal, instead. But even the ones that were having difficulty visualizing the terrain were excited to actually get out on a map this weekend, and said that orienteering sounded super fun, so I'll call it a win!
May 3, 2019 3:28 PM # 
Thanks for posting! And congratulations on what sounds like an excellent workshop.
May 3, 2019 6:54 PM # 
May 3, 2019 7:46 PM # 
Well done, and some great ideas!
May 3, 2019 8:45 PM # 
I have this prop for contours, the "Contours Cake", made out of insulation foam, cut into slices, painted "chocolate filling". If the kids could imagine every hill as a cake that could be cut into equally thick slices, and reassembled with chocolate filling, the astronauts would see "chocolate" contour lines.
And that the astronauts could imagine the shape and height of the hill from the shape of the "chocolate" lines.
May 3, 2019 10:26 PM # 
Real food can work, as well! Last summer I had my kids creating 3D contours from a flat map using marzipan. Egg-free cookie dough works, too.
May 4, 2019 2:02 AM # 
except that a couple of girls weren't quite getting it and seemed more interested in looking at maps of Portugal, instead

Can't blame them, I have a couple of Portugese maps sitting on my printer almost permanently that I'm always looking at.
May 5, 2019 1:26 PM # 
That sounds like an excellent introduction! I love how you challenged them and helped them realize that they can do the visualization.

One suggestion for the future is to find some way, even if they are indoors, to get them moving around, so they're not just sitting throughout your session.

I love Andrea's stories that she wraps around her activities.
May 8, 2019 3:05 AM # 
Sounds like it was presented really well, very empowering! Excellent work!

This discussion thread is closed.