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Treasure Trekking (FBCEC)

TopicOutdoor Skills - Map and Compass (Orienteering
Using a compass is fun and could prove to be a life-saving skill. No batteries needed! Participants will be introduced to compass basics and then as groups follow a given set of bearings, which ultimately lead to “treasure.” If time allows, they can write a set of bearings so others can locate a point.

Grade Level5 - 12
Recommended SettingIndoor and outdoor classrooms
LocationFred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR
Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484
Duration1 - 1.5 hours
Suggested Number of ParticipantsUp to 12
Special Conditions
Weather permitting
  • Identify the parts of a compass.
  • Understand how to use a compass.
  • Demonstrate the proper use of a compass while following a set of bearings.
  • Optional: Develop a set of bearings that will lead to a chosen point.
Key Terms*








Class set of compasses

Course cards with waypoints placed at each destination

Introductory “how to” video for a compass (optional)

Large model of a compass

(Note: Younger participants will receive a simplified set of course cards.)


Explorers and travelers have long used compasses to navigate. Magnetic fields surround Earth and come together to form the magnetic North and South poles. When held level, a compass’ magnetized needle aligns with these fields. Magnetic north is actually a few degrees away from “true” geographic north. This difference of degrees in relation to your position on Earth is called “declination.” Since maps base direction on true north, you must adjust for declination when using a compass with a map.

  1. Begin by showing a large model of a compass. Discuss the compass’ usefulness and how it works.
  2. Introduce the parts of the compass and how each part works. (The video can be played here.)
  3. Supply each participant with a compass. Let them become familiar with it and review its parts. Show them how to hold the compass properly.
  4. Practice aligning the dial (compass housing) to different directions. For example, tell them to face their body and compass in a northwest direction. They will then find where on the compass housing northwest is, then turn the dial to northwest, and turn the body so the red arrow goes into the compass housing space.
  5. Next, use the azimuth to practice orienteering to degrees of direction. For example, have them orient to 300 degrees south. The participant will turn the dial so that 300 degrees is at the direction of travel. They will then turn their bodies so the red arrow is aligned with the direction of travel arrow. They will then be facing 300 degrees south.
  6. Have them practice this and then give them a number of paces to take in that direction. For example, have them go 45 degrees for 10 paces. (Participants should practice pacing until they can accurately step off 3-foot paces.)
  7. Have a course preset with directions to go to the next waypoint at each destination they reach. Let the participants complete the course using the bearings and waypoints at each station. (Optional: Provide a piece to a puzzle or a clue to a riddle at each waypoint so that completion of the course results in a solution.)
  8. Different courses could be set up so that all participants are not going in the same direction the whole time.
  9. After completing the course, gather to discuss what they found easy or difficult. If time allows, complete another course.

Challenge groups to develop a series of three or four bearings to get from one point to another. They can test their accuracy (and/or the orienteering skill of others) by having another group follow their bearings.

  • Draw a compass and label its basic parts.
  • Outline the steps for using a compass to find a bearing.
  • Describe the variables that could cause you to veer a bit off course while following a set of bearings.

Azimuth – an arc of the horizon measured between a fixed point and the vertical circle passing through the center of an object


Bearing – the horizontal direction of one point with respect to another or to a compass; direction of a fixed point or the path of a moving object from a point of observation


Compass – a device that determines directions with a magnetic needle that turns freely on a pivot and points to magnetic north

– angular difference between true north and magnetic north; also the difference in degrees between magnetic north (the direction the magnetic needle on a compass points) and true or geographic north (the direction maps are printed toward)


Orienteering – a cross-country sport in which a participant uses a map and compass to navigate his way between checkpoints along an unfamiliar course


Waypoint – coordinates used by a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit