Teaching Orienteering in Schools

Orienteering is a good way to teach children map skills, and can be integrated with units on geography, math and science. In Sweden, it is a required part of the elementary school curriculum, and in the English-speaking world, it is also an important part of the curriculum in many schools in Scotland, England, parts of Canada, as well as Westchester County and the Seattle area in the United States.

In the United States, many individual teachers in other areas would like to incorporate orienteering into the curriculum, and the purpose of this page is to provide some information on resources.

Books, Videos and Games

There are many good books that incorporate lesson plans for a variety of ages; I have mentioned and summarized a few here, but others are also available that I have not had a chance to review.

Carol McNeill of Scotland, who was one of the top orienteers in the world in the 1970s, has written a series that covers teaching orienteering for various age groups (6-8, 8-9, 9-10, and 10-12; $10.60 each). Her books provide many examples which use classrooms as well as unmapped and mapped school grounds. She has also coauthored packages that include 20 lesson plans ($20 for stages 1 and 2; $24 for stages 3 and 4).

The orienteering federations of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. have also put out manuals (and in some cases, lesson plans) to aid in teaching orienteering in schools; most of these are geared to students about 10 years old and are fairly specific to the country.

Some good orienteering videos are available. An 11-minute video by Chris Cassone ($24.95) gives a good introduction to orienteering; a two-part series "Orienteering: The First Steps" ($39.95) covers orienteering in the schools (part 1) as well as in the woods (part 2).

Finally, there are several games that may be useful in the classroom. Some of these concentrate on particular skills; for example, there is a ":Beginner's Compass Game" in which students follow compass bearings for specified distances and see how accurate they are ($2.75; there is also and Advanced version for $3.00 - specify whether you want distances in feet or meters). Other games concentrate on learning map symbols or on route choice. My personal favorite is a game by Robin Harvey (the arbiter of orienteering mapping; he's based in Scotland), which covers many aspects of orienteering and is well designed and visually attractive ($49.95).

All of these items are available from suppliers of orienteering equipment.

Some links that may be useful:

James Baker's page, Orienteering for the Young, is an excellent guide and resource.
Rick Slater's Orienteering page has a directory of clubs and contacts in North America. People near your area will often be able to help in person, on-line, or by phone and this is how to find them.
Kjetil Kjernsmos' tutorial, "How to Use a Compass", has very clear drawings.
The orienteering news group, rec.sport.orienteering, is a good place to get answers to questions about information not covered here.