Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering

One of our favorite outdoor activities involves just a few materials and is both challenging and fun. With a just a compass and a map, a variety of activities and obstacles courses can be designed to accommodate everyone. It is the perfect summer activity and can be easily integrated into your science or history curriculum.

Orienteering is what is called a lifetime sport; there’s something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or experience. Most events provide courses for all levels, from beginner to advanced.

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Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering @EvaVarga.net

The history of Orienteering begins in the late 19th century in Sweden where it grew from military training in land navigation into a competitive sport for military officers. Eventually civilians caught on to the sport and the first public orienteering competition was held in Norway in 1897.

Orienteering courses can be set in any environment where an appropriate map has been made and a number of variations have been developed over the years. Some of the more intriguing variations include Night Courses, Trivia, and Relay Orienteering.

Orienteering with Kids can be a lot of fun. It is also a great confidence booster as they develop their navigational skills and can find their way through unknown territory.

To introduce kids to this wonderful sport, I have developed a simple introductory compass course activity to introduce the basics of using a compass for upper elementary and middle school students. It has been very popular with our local homeschool community and I am delighted to share it with you.

Introduction to Orienteering @EvaVarga.netIn my eBook, Introduction to Orienteering, I have included detailed instructions on the use of a compass and outlined a simple Compass Course activity to introduce kids to the sport of Orienteering. In addition, I have compiled numerous enrichment activities that incorporate the use of a compass and topographical maps.

With the Introduction to Orienteering unit study, students will develop the navigational skills and experience to feel confidant in participating in larger, community-wide Orienteering events. You can find more information about these opportunities by visiting the Orienteering USA website.

The Compass Course activity is also a part of my Earth Logic: Our Dynamic Earth curriculum, a 10 week hands-on earth science curriculum unit study on the geology of our Earth.

While the compass has not changed dramatically since it was first invented by the Chinese during the Han dynasty, many other navigational tools have been invented. We loved reading about the tools early explorers used to navigate in North Star Geography and have enjoyed using some of these tools ourselves. I have shared a few of our activities in my post, Sailing Ships & Navigation.

Orienteering for Kids: Free Mini Lessons

Orienteering is an exciting adventure sport that will get your kids running – and provides lots of great learning opportunities for homeschooling.  The sport originated in Sweden during the 19th century as navigation and fitness training for the military. After the first public competition in 1897 in Norway, the sport spread to Finland and Sweden. By the middle of the century, orienteering became a recognized sport throughout Europe, and the International Orienteering Federation was established in May 1961.

Free Orienteering LessonsAs well as learning to recognise some topographical map symbols, your children will learn to use a compass and to gauge distances with more accuracy.  Orienteering is a sport that involves a race marked out on a map. In following the course map, the runners have to find a number of checkpoints. The person who finds all the checkpoints, in the right order, in the shortest time, is the winner.

I recently introduced Orienteering to my Barnesklubb in a simplified orienteering course. Essentially, I set up a course with seven checkpoints beneath the trees at a local beach, marking each with a small flag.  Next to each checkpoint I placed a rubber stamp and an ink pad.   I wrote down the coordinates to navigate from one checkpoint to the next so that the first and last checkpoints were the same (we thereby finished at the same location where we started).

The kids were given a brief introduction to using a compass – most had used one previously, but several had no prior experience.  I thereby accompanied them along the course until they felt comfortable on their own.  Each pair of students was then given a card on which the coordinates were written.  As they moved through the course together, they used the rubber stamp and ink pad to record the checkpoints.

Introduction to Orienteering @EvaVarga.netThe Introduction to Orienteering activity is available now in my store and includes the course marker cards and detailed instructions on how to set up this course for yourself. Conveniently priced at just $2.95, you’ll be ready to introduce your kids to this lifetime sport. In addition to the Compass Course activity described above, it includes several additional enrichment activities to further encourage navigational skills.

If you are already familiar with how to use a compass and have had some experience with Orienteering, I have also created a FREE printable Orienteering guide that you may use to enrich your compass repertoire.  For more information, you may wish to to seek out clubs in your local area.

National Geographic has also launched a free website for printing detailed topographical maps, PDF Quads. All you’ll need now are a few compasses and an adventurous spirit.

Orienteering – An Introduction

Orienteering is a sport that requires skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map which they use to find control points.  Originally a training exercise in land navigation for the military, orienteering has developed many variations.
Orienteering began in the late 19th century in Sweden.  The actual term “orientering” (the original Swedish name for orienteering) was first used in 1886 and meant the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and a compass. In Sweden, orienteering grew into a competitive sport for military officers, then for civilians. The name is derived from a word root meaning to find the direction or location. The first orienteering competition open to the public was held in Norway in 1897.  Barnesklubb met last week for an introduction to the sport of Orienteering.  A simple pentagonal course was set up in a local park and the kids were given instruction on how to navigate using the compass.  The points were clearly visible and at each, a ‘clue word’ was recorded.  When the kids completed a four-point course, the words completed a sentence. This lesson is provided in my earth science curriculum, Earth Logic:  Our Dynamic Earth. It can also be purchased individually.

We are excited to take part in more elaborate Orienteering courses in the future. Perhaps you’ll join us?