How to Teach Wayfinding

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    • 1). Gather a variety of land maps and nautical charts, a few compasses for students to practice with and anything your school's budget will allow. The school library might have some of the books and other materials, too. Using a map of a nearby hiking trail or state park is ideal if you can take students on a field trip. Otherwise, use what you can to teach the basics and general methods of traveling without getting lost. Learning to read a street map well and fast is a handy skill too.

    • 2). Select landmarks or points of interest from each map. Divide students into small groups and assign each group to a map. Help them orient by learning about the scale, legend, key, latitude, longitude and compass roses. These are basics to orient to initially with any map. For nautical charts, it's important to know if depths are in feet or fathoms (or yards, in some cases). Ask students to determine the best way to move between the landmarks you've chosen, to measure the distances and to list hindrances or concerns that could be faced.

    • 3). Practice outdoors around the school with compasses. Find what direction is north, east, south and west, and change the language in the class for a day by using wayfinding exercises, such as, "Walk 20 yards then turn east and walk 12 yards. Where do you end up?" They can use the pedometer around school to verify distances they estimate before leaving for practice walks. Take students to a nearby park as a group. Ask them to take mental notes on important sites, street names, and so forth -- to be aware of their surroundings. The goal is for the students to return and draw their own detailed map.

    • 4). Ask students to use a state map to plan and plot a trip from their home to a random site to far away. You can select these in advance or allow them to choose. The assignment will include routing, ETAs (estimated time of arrival) if departing at noon, places to stop for fuel and interesting sights along the way. Add one side trip off major freeways. They'll learn to calculate distances, time and speed and navigation basics.

    • 5). Head out on a field trip to a wilderness area to hike a mountain ridge, or find a remote lake. Divide students into groups. Give out printed copies of area maps, a compass for each group, water, snacks and general safety rules. If possible, send them out on different trails. They have to reach a destination by an appointed time and return.

    • 6). Rent a boat for the group to get on the water, or if that isn't feasible, go in canoes or kayaks for a field trip on a lake or seashore. Note points on a nautical chart for a short ocean trip, and teach a bit about general navigation on the water, which can be seriously affected by winds, waves and weather conditions such as rain and fog. In a kayak at the level of water, trying to figure out where you are or how to get to another point isn't always as easy as it sounds. Teach about the importance of practice, and always add factors regarding safety.

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