Haddington Infants – P3 Orienteering

“P3 kids can’t do orienteering – they can’t read maps, they can’t navigate, they’ll get lost and we’ll spend the day chasing them like we’re trying to herd cats.”

These were my thoughts when Bill told me we’re off to take Haddington Infants P3 for orienteering sessions in Neilson Park. I suspected we were about to have a lot of faffing….

For the first 5 minutes of each session, a casual observer would probably think the same -when Bill asks which direction is north, 22 children point in 22 different directions!

After a quick walk round the park, maps in hand, I’m forced to revise my preconceived ideas however. Within minutes, they can orientate maps to north, recognise map symbols and relate direction on the map to direction on the ground – they grasp the principles quickly and are keen to get going on their own.

Ten minutes in and every single map is oriented North – good work!

Once they’ve practiced with one or two points, they are soon tackling complete courses, logging scores and times and navigating from point to point with confidence.

The children are obviously excited and enjoying themselves – they run constantly for over an hour and despite the frost on the ground, coats, hats and gloves are abandoned and shirt sleeves are the order of the day – not bad for the middle of February!




Coats for goalposts.


What the children seem to enjoy most is the sense of freedom and responsibilty – they don’t have to follow their teachers, their every move isn’t dictated to them and they are free to plan their own route to visit the points on the map. There is no issue about going to the wrong points in the wrong order – they are free to make their own mistakes, learn from them and come up with a better plan for the next course.

Complete one route, get a new map, go again – a conveyor belt of activity!


All this is great fun – comments like “Can we do this again tomorrow?”, “This is great fun!” and even “I love orienteering!” are common. But is that all it is – just good fun?

Pupils worked in pairs in charge of their own maps, electronic “dibbers” and routes.

We can take a quick look at the CfE and see if we can make any links from it to what we did in the park –

Successful Learners (enthusiasm for learning; new thinking and ideas; communication; using technology; independent thinking individually and as a group) – TICK.

Confident Individuals (relate to others; active lifestyle; assess risk; make informed decisions) – TICK.

Responsible Citizens (respect for others; environmental considerations) – TICK.

Effective Contributors (enterprising; self-reliance; communication in different settings; working in partnership; taking initiative; critical thinking in new contexts; solve problems) – TICK.

When a route is completed, Bill gives feedback on routes, times etc. Every team gets an instant printout. With this feedback, pupils can plan their next route.

The links to experiences and outcomes are too numerous to list here – the links to Health and Wellbeing may be obvious (co-operation and competition being perhaps the most apparent), but it doesn’t end there.

Mathematics was built in – the classes are just about to start work on “time” and the printouts with their timings showing minute and seconds gives a good introduction to the concepts. Technology was used for the electronic timing system. It is relatively simple to tailor the event to target any number of outcomes for any age/stage – name the control points in French; bring Social Science/environmental issues into the mix; add maths equations to the control points; identify the trees in the area – the connections that can be made are only limited by the imagination.

Such a session is a good example of obliquity – a different and innovative way of approaching education and achieving learning outcomes by an indirect route. It was great fun, but it was also much more than that.

Yes, you can fit an entire primary school class in the tipi tent……

Most importantly though, all pupils had a good time and P4 outings were already being discussed!

So, it appears I was wrong. P3 kids can read maps and they can navigate.

And no one got lost!

…although it is a tight squeeze!

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