Beginning Orienteering

Outdoor Recreation Skills
| 4th Grade - Adult
| Half Day 3 hrs
| Moderate


 Orienteering is the challenging sport of using a compass to find assigned markers in natural terrain.  After learning the history of the compass and how it works, students will be taught how to take a bearing and to pace out distances through the woods.  Taking these skills students will demonstrate their proficiency on one of two different outdoor orienteering courses.

The Valley Course is a half mile away, hilly and moderately difficult.  The course takes about an hour to complete.

Class Outline

I. Finding Our Way

A. Walking in a Straight Line

B. Value of Landmarks

C. Mind Pie

II. Using a Compass

A. Orienteering is…

B. Parts of a Compass

C. Holding a Compass

D. Taking a Bearing

E. Sighting and Object

III. Compass Origins

A. How a Compass Works

B. History of the Compass

C. Importance of Orienteering

D. Getting Ready to Go

IV. Pacing to Measure Distance

V. The Course

A. Course Description

B. Starting the Course

C. Discussion of Quotes

VI. We Noticed…

A. Mind Pie

B. Next steps…

Concepts and Outcomes


  1. Unlike many animals, humans need tools to help them navigate.
  2. Navigating with a partner takes patience, practice, and respect for people and ideas.
  3. Challenges provide opportunities for learning and growth.
  4. Becoming skilled in orienteering leads to being more confident in new territory.
  5. When we are comfortable being in remote areas, we can begin to appreciate wilderness.


Upon completion of the Beginning Orienteering class students will be able to:

  1. Explain the use of landmarks in navigation.
  2. Describe how a compass works.
  3. Walk a straight line to a destination using a compass, including taking a bearing and measuring distances by pacing.
  4. Cooperatively work with a partner by demonstrating they can stay together, use sighting, help each other, and make decisions.
  5. Find freedom away from large groups to experience the woods.


Extension Activities

Writing Prompts

Describe the role of the compass throughout history.

Write a story about the journey a compass could take through the Boundary Waters.


Additional Activities

Build Your Own Compass

A comprehensive unit of orienteering lesson plans geared toward advanced students and high schoolers.