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kenk

2nd Class - Completing an Orienteering Course

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I'd like your input regarding the First Class requirement 2: "Using a compass, complete an orienteering course that covers at least one mile and requires measuring the height and/or width of designated items (tree, tower, canyon, ditch, etc.)"

 

I'm mostly asking about the first part - the orienteering course.

 

In my son's troop they usually setup a compass course in which the Scout is handed a list of compass bearings and distances, and their task is to complete the course by following each bearing in the order given.

 

When I read the new Boy Scout Handbook it describes an orienteering course as a map marked with five or six destinations called control points. The participant is expected to orient the map and - without being given a bearing - determine the direction to the first control point. They use their map and compass to find the first control point, find the control point, gather some proof of being there, and then repeat for the next control point. The old Handbook gave a similar description.

 

What do your troops do to fulfill this requirement?

 

Being an ASM and the Advancement Coordinator, I'd like to persuade the SM/ASMs/PLC to complete this requirement using a true orienteering course rather than a compass bearing course.

 

During the E & D steps of the EDGE process (yeah, that's right ... I'm getting with the program) I'd like them to teach Scouts how to adjust/compensate their compasses to magnetic declination, orient the map (2nd Class 1a) to north, to estimate the distance to the control point, to obtain a map bearing by laying the compass on the route from their current location to the control point, and then have them do their best to follow that bearing. Of course a good course would probably prevent them from walking directly to the control point, but that is part of the fun of it.

 

I'd imagine that they could use landmarks to get them to the control points, rather than only use the map bearing. That would be OK with me so long as they did the map bearing at least once or twice - just to know how to do it.

 

Would that be adding to or subtracting from the requirement?

 

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This was another requirement that was open to interpretation. We did it the best we could.

 

A while ago I laid out a course at a local nature center over a 2 mile course. No map was provided, just a start point and a heading and directions for turns and so forth. The boys would spend the morning learning how to measure off and so forth. The course is the same every year. It includes doubling back and going in circles.

 

When training was done I would take a book and go to the end point and wait for them. The end point was inside the main office so I could enjoy coffee and climate control.

 

Two other adults would go with them (mostly so they would learn also). One adult would have a GPS and an another adult with the end point GPS coords in a sealed envelope. There would also be a two way radio for me and the team. The envelope was in case there was an emergency.

 

To get the requirement signed off they would have to find me with the envelope still sealed.

 

The time it took varied from 75 minutes to 4 hours. Last year it took them 4 hours. The mistake they made was checking compasses while standing close to each other.

 

Good luck, this is always been a fun one for us.

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There is a lot of topography in our area so for boys this young we decided that it was important to decrease the probability that they'd get lost in the exercise. So I set up a course in a large tract of property that allows frequent long-distance views so we could actually SEE them a lot of the time, assuming they were on course. I set it up both of the ways described in the opening message.

 

The exercise using the marked map is fairly easy, as noted, because they do have landmarks to help orient them.

The most challenging course is the one where they have to find the correct points using only compass bearings and estimates of distances. They are given numbered flags to leave where they think the points are and there is a final destination point near the origin. If they do everything right they end up within a reasonable distance from the actual target.

It took me about two days to lay this out using surveying tools and then I had other leaders check it using their gps units. After we're confident about the layout it's easy to transpose it to a GIS system and modify the headings and distances for any range of difficulty. (I haven't tried Google Earth for this yet but I bet it would work)

If they make an error near the end it isn't so bad but if that error is at the beginning it seems to be magnified as they take about a dozen changes in direction and distance through the course. So we try to check them after the first couple of segments to make sure they're not going to end up in a lake or something.

Going through the whole thing takes about an hour if they know what they're doing.

We start first thing in the morning and they do an initial run-through to demonstrate to themselves what it's like to get it badly wrong. Then we swap the course directions (there are multiple course sequences) and run it with better skills. By the end of the morning they're pretty good at it. The troop supplies pizza for lunch and if needed we work some more in the afternoon.

The height stuff is really easy so that only takes a short time at the end.

 

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We've done it both ways. The pre-established course at camp (which our older boys could navigate blindfolded and in leg irons) is a distance/bearing course. But in the past year one of our ASM has hooked up with the local orienteering club which runs their courses using maps. (They've done a couple meets on a local lake and you have to run the course by canoe. That's pretty sweet.)

 

I prefer the latter method. It's a much more realistic navigation problem and can include using bearings and pacing distances.

 

Honestly, every course I've seen has a rather contrived use for the height/distance measure. At the beginning or end of the course you have to figure the height of a flag pole, or something similar.

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We have them run two courses. We offer this twice a year on a Saturday with older scouts setting up the course. Often the older guys are working on the orienteering MB.

 

One a compass course with distance and bearings.

 

Two a map course where they have to take measurements of distance and plot a bearing.

 

We do number one to satisfy ourseves they know how to use a compass and count their steps. We do #2 so they get an intro to the orienteering merit badge.

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Usually we take the better part of an afternoon to do this requirement. Learning compass reading, topo maps, orienting a map and compass is also explained in the field. We also set up a 100' pace count line.

 

We have in the past set up letters and a grid but standard orienteering compasses are only good for a bout 10 degrees or so. so the scouts were way off and didn't hit their marks and letters. Scouts with a sighting compass did better.

 

Anyway for the requirement; On a little over a mile trail we set up six stations.

At each a station is a post. The two man scout team is given a bearing and a distance at which to find a second post. Usually 100-200' out. At the second post is popsicle stick with a number. The two man scout team collects the sticks from each station. At one of the stations they have to measure the distance across a creek or a large tree. The SM has the correct answer for these.

 

This takes a little while to set up but in the end my scouts know compass bearings.

 

 

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We use a course that is set up at Prince William Forest Park near Quantico, VA. Topo maps for courses of a varying lengths/difficulties are available for checkout from the ranger station. The course was laid out by the Norwegian Army National Orienteering team sometime in the 1970's The waypoints are numbered 4x4 posts, about 4' high with an orange blaze on the top. The terrain is pretty rugged and the posts really blend in with fall foliage. The maps have the points marked with additional information on the back.

 

As the course is relatively close we usually go there a couple times a year either for a day trip or a campout. It is one of the little known gems of our area.

 

If scouts choose to fulfill the requirement at summer camp they do a heading/distance type course .

 

Both types are valid and fulfill the requirement but I prefer the first type as it teaches the scouts to orient the map and determine the headings/distances.

 

Hal

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We've laid out an orienteering course at a local park. See http://troopkit.com/o.jpg for the map that scouts are given.

At each waypoint, there is a code that they write on their map. They can choose the path to reach each waypoint. There are also a few key items at some waypoints which they estimate for height or width.

 

A "compass course" is a great exercise for compass skills, but I don't believe it does justice to the First Class #2 requirement which emphasizes map use in the field. When we're in wilderness, scouts will have a map and landmarks and topography around them - that's what they'll need to use to navigate and that's what an orienteering course provides. And, it's really a lot of fun!

 

I just purchased orienteering maps for the troop for five parks in the area and am really looking forward to the spring to explore new places with the new scouts!

 

Scout On

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Twocubdad, our height measurement is posed in terms of a practical problem. A large tree must be cut. It is near several buildings. How far away from the buildings must it be to clear them if it falls that direction? If the tree grows one foot per year, how long can we delay cutting the tree? The 'building' is a cardboard box. Sometimes we throw in a power line (piece of rope on the ground).

They have to measure the distance to the building and the height of the tree. If they get it wrong we crush the box for effect. If they get it right, they get the initials in their book. After we eat we recycle the 'buildings'.

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When I read the new Boy Scout Handbook it describes an orienteering course as a map marked with five or six destinations called control points. The participant is expected to orient the map and - without being given a bearing - determine the direction to the first control point. They use their map and compass to find the first control point, find the control point, gather some proof of being there, and then repeat for the next control point. The old Handbook gave a similar description.

 

 

My read is that requirment intends to introduce the scout to the basics of map and compass work. Those basics being boxing the needle, map to field, and field to map techniques for direction finding. As such, I think any course set up to cover these techniques should cover the new requirments. The downside is that m -> f, and f -> m training will require using a compass that can doubled as a protractor. Thus, say goodbye to those cheap lenstatic compass..

 

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I like what mn-scout has done. This was our troop's first year and experience with this requirement. We got a few copies of a topographic map of an area where we were going camping and had a leader get there early. I used the map and marked 10 spots on the map with dots and placed small orange flags in the ground at each location. Each flag had a letter on it. The scouts were given the map, shown where our campsite was, and told to find the orange flags. Some were quite easy, near the road, but others were tougher. All scout teams had radios and kept in communication with the base station so when the "I'm lost" call came, we knew what direction they had been headed in. Whistles were also quite useful in locating lost scouts. After the exercise, we went back to retrieve all the flags and showed scouts how to find them. They had a lot of fun.

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