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Name of Activity:

Orienteering Scavenger Hunt

Purpose of Activity:

To learn how to use a compass to reach multiple checkpoints.


Travelling, directions such as north, south, east, and west.

Suggested Grade Level:


Materials Needed:

Compasses (one for every student)
one demonstration compass (either large one or overhead)
poly spots
direction cards

Description of Idea

Begin class by telling the students that orienteering is a race to find different control markers hidden in back country using only a map and compass. The first thing they need to learn before orienteering is how to use a compass.

Demonstrate use of a compass with a large demonstration compass or an overhead projector. The students should be able to identify the following compass parts;

  • Compass base is the rectangular bottom part of the compass.

  • Compass needle or magnetic needle is the red and white arrow that moves. The red part of the needle always points north.

  • Compass housing or dial is the turnable dial on the compass. The numbers on the dial refer to degrees of azimuth, or also called a bearing.

  • Direction of travel arrow or sighting line is the arrow on the compass base. This is the what you point where you want to go.

To use the compass, hold the compass level so the magnetic needle turns freely. Rotate the compass dial to a desired bearing (so the sighting line falls directly on a bearing such as 90 degrees which is east). Hold the compass so that the back of the compass (part of the compass base opposite the direction of travel arrow) is at your belly button. Keeping the back of the compass at your belly button, turn in a circle until the red end of the magnetic needle lines up with zero degrees (north) on the compass dial. The direction of travel arrow now points to the bearing set on your compass. For more information on using a compass, go to Learn Orienteering.

Walk the students through the cues and repeat the steps to face different directions and bearings. Practice travelling at specific bearings by setting the compass to a bearing, picking a spot on the gym wall that the directional arrow points to, and walking towards that spot.

After the students have grasped the reading of a compass then you can start them on a Scavenger Hunt. If they need more time learning how to read the compass then you may want to come back the next day to do the Scavenger Hunt.

Orienteering Scavenger Hunt

Set up the scavenger hunt by spreading poly spots on the floor of the activity area. Write the following directions on different scraps of paper so that each course is on a different piece of paper:

Course 1
120°-10 Steps
240°-10 Steps
0°-10 Steps

Course 2
300°-8 Steps
60°-8 Steps
180°-8 Steps

Course 3
90°-12 Steps
180°-12 Steps
270°-12 Steps
0°-12 Steps

Course 4
90°-6 Steps
180°-8 Steps
330°-10 Steps

Course 5
130°-3 Steps
220°-4 Steps
310°-6 Steps
100°-5 Steps

Course 6
110°-6 Steps
200°-8 Steps
290°-12 Steps
80°-10 Steps

Fold the paper and put one of these in each balloon. Blow up the balloons and spread them around outside of general space. Putting the course directions in the balloon is optional.

Begin the activity by having students spilt up into pairs. Stress the fact that they never travel alone! They may be in a team of three if you have an odd number of students in class. One partner goes to a poly spot on the floor and the other partner gets a balloon and meets their partner at the spot. They pop the balloon and get the directions out of it. Make sure they pick the balloon up after they pop it. Each student uses their own compass, but they travel as a team according to the directions. The directions on the sheet of paper will lead them back to where they began-the poly spot.


The balloon idea is optional.

Use a penny or a small marker that is more difficult to see instead of the polyspots.

I got pictures of lots of cool parks all over the world and used these and told the students that this is the area that they were travelling in.

Have students write how many steps away from their poly spot they ended up.

Teaching Suggestions:

The compass will not be accurate if used next to metal objects such as watches, belt buckles, and metal poles.

Make sure students pick a reference point on the wall when walking, rather than always watching their compass.

Have everyone practice facing different directions/bearings before travelling.

Submitted by Amanda Hetfield in Owosso, MI. Thanks for contributing to PE Central! Posted on PEC: 2/13/2018.
Viewed 270229 times since 2/3/2002.

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Orienteering Scavenger Hunt

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