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Name of Activity:


Purpose of Activity:

To teach navigation skills when a compass is unavailable.


Have learned the "Compass Rose", know the Cardinal and Intercardinal points on a compass. The "compass rose" is the fairly common picture of a compass. It looks kind of like a star. Cardinal points are N, S, E & W and Intercardinal points are those in between, such as NE, SE, SW and NW.

Have previously learned the Associated Degree bearings for these points (N = 0 & 360 degrees, NE = 45 degrees, etc.).

Students must understand magnetic north and have identified magnetic North for the location of this activity.

Suggested Grade Level:


Materials Needed:

Traffic cones, floor spots (assorted colors), recording sheet for each student or team (prepared by instructor), numbered 3 X 5 cards placed on each cone (cones placed and numbered randomly), writing utensils (crayons or pencils), stop watch.

Description of Idea

Students are timed as they move quickly through a predetermined arrangement of numbered traffic cones (no sequence required).

One student or team is positioned at each cone.

A whistle begins the activity.

At the cone, students are to straddle over the cone and read the bearing found on the record sheet (prepared by the instructor), which coincides with the numbered cone they are standing over (e.g., cone # 1 has a bearing on the record sheet of NE, the student then rotates until they have positioned themselves into the bearing they believe represents NE).

Assorted colored floor spots have been placed around the space, the student or team is to record the color of the first floor spot they see on this bearing (teachers can make it as challenging as they want by placing several spots in close proximity to the correct choice).

The student/team then moves to the next cone (a cone that is not occupied by someone else, find an open cone to save time).

Students repeat the procedure at each cone (read the bearing from the sheet, position themselves, record the color of the first floor spot on this bearing).

After completing each station, the student or team brings the record sheet to the instructor, who makes note of the elapsed time it took to complete the course.

After all teams have completed the course, the correct colors are given to the class, for self-correction.


Other teaching ideas are to have both the cardinal/intercardinal points listed along with bearings, or one could put just bearings down to reinforce that 0 degrees = North, or 45 deg = NE. Good idea that could be tweaked to lead up to compass use, or to reinforce directions and bearings without a compass.

This same activity can be used with a compass, the teacher prerecords exact compass bearings and the students practice their compass skills.

If using this as a game competition, penalty time (e.g., 20 secs. per missed color) is added to the course time and recorded on the record sheet.

Assessment Ideas:

Students who correctly record the appropriate colors have demonstrated that they can find the correct bearings without using the compass.

Teaching Suggestions:

The teacher has prerecorded all the colors at each cone and holds the master sheet.

There should be 1 or 2 more stations than there are students or teams.

Submitted by Leo Saucier in Presque Isle, ME. Thanks for contributing to PE Central! Posted on PEC: 6/15/2006.
Viewed 56851 times since 3/18/2006.

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Let others know how this idea went when you implemented/tried it with your kids. Include any variations, suggested teaching tips, positive comments, etc. so others can benefit from your tips. Please be helpful and positive with all comments. Look below to see all posted comments.



Previous Comments:

Kaylind Notz

I would love to do an orienteering unit. or a few days of it. I really have never seen it done though and am having trouble wrapping my mind around this lesson plan. help?

Jill Pickus

I do a very similar compass lesson with eighth graders. Since the bearings are so specific to the next cone, you may want to put a small piece of floor tape down under the cones so that you know exactly where the cones go if you have to break it down and set it back up. You can put a letter on each cone and make it a word scramble. I use ten cones that end up spelling the word "navigation". You can also put a number on the cone and the coinciding tape so that the teams can be told to start at specific cones. This way they are not all starting at the same cone. I would say this activity is good for 8th-12th grade.


How does this relate to P.E.

peter sutherland

amazing, good information. user freindly

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