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Orienteering requirement - "height and/or width"

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First Class requirement 4a reads,


4a. Using a map and 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.).

The pre-2016 First Class requirement 2 was worded pretty much the same.

Until the end of 2020, a modified version of the requirement is allowed due to COVID-19,


4a. – By drawing, computer software, or other virtual methods, plan an orienteering course that would cover at least one mile. Explain why measuring the height and/or width of designated items (tree, tower, canyon, ditch, etc.) is helpful. Explain how you would complete your course using a real map and compass.

Both versions talk about "requires measuring the height and/or width of designated items".  I know there are ways to do that; I remember reading through the chapter about that in the Boy Scout Handbook I used in the early '90s, and there are even sections on that in the 1948 Handbook and the 1910 Handbook.

But if I'm helping design an orienteering course, how can I make it "require" measuring height or width?

Should the length of one leg, or even all legs, of the course be written in terms of a prominent landmark?  ("Go four water-tower-lengths at 175 degrees. Go two water-tower-lengths at 85 degrees. ...")

Do the "designated items" need to be things that require such indirect measurement? Or could the Scout measure the width of a dry ditch by walking across it?  But once again, how would the orienteering course "require" it? 

Edited by DavidLeeLambert
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The way I do this is I have a questions that have to be answered at certain controls. Usually controls just have a key word written on the flag, and the scout records it on the control sheet when he finds it.  But the control sheet also has bonus questions like:

  • What is the height of the trunk this control is on?
  • How wide is the ravine just west of this control?
  • How tall is the pole on the opposite side of this field?
  • Isn’t Mr. Q the best SM ever? 😀

The right answer to each question can shave 10 minutes off of the scout’s time. Usually I rate controls worth 10 minutes as well. So the scout who spends time finding every control and answering every question can usually cut their score in half.

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Once upon a  time auto rally courses were popular.  The idea is to drive  at a certain speed  for a certain distance,  following directions along a prescribed course.  The driver who came closest to the "ideal" calculated time for the course without going over it was the winner.  I remember one course I drove with my buddy as navigator, we came in , I think 35th out of 50 some contestants. There was one direction that  I remember:  "Take second right after 138 mail boxes."  What???  Well, we passed a trailer park with over a hundred mailboxes all in a row!  And if you took the FIRST right, it was a loop and you would come out facing the wrong way !  Such were the diabolical planning in some of these courses. And the fun and challenge. 

So one can plan the compass course in two ways:  Serious ( degrees, distance, note station clue, move on...) or you an add some interest.  Start at the Maple Tree with four main trunks.  Face the quartz boulder and bear off at ...  Reverse bearing twelve meters and at the Honey Locust .....

I like Qwarze's  ideas.   And yours.  Nothing wrong with directing " Measure the height of the Church Steeple and round off to nearest meter. Travel that distance from the NE corner of the church at 175 degrees magnetic..."


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The latest iteration of the scout handbook does have several ways for scouts to indirectly measure the height of the objects and width of streams with the use of their own pacing measurements. As I observed my scouts on their course, I asked them how wide is the stream at this point and later on, I asked to determine the height of a tree on their path. I think this minimally meets the requirement, but those developing courses can certainly add these measurements to the next distance/direction instruction. 

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