A great camping activity that utilizes your natural surroundings is an orienteering scavenger hunt! Kids (and adults too!) love making their way through clues to find a hidden treasure. Finally the last clue leads to a hidden treasure filled with candy, small toys, stickers, or other fun things.
Orienteering is a lot like a treasure hunt with written clues that point you in the direction of the next clue, but orienteering requires knowing how to use and read a compass. This activity is a great way to introduce your kids to using a compass. The desire to make it to each new clue and eventually to the hidden treasure will surely motivate them to learn how to use the compass correctly.
- A compass is a small magnet that reacts to the magnetic field created by the earth’s core.
- The red end of the magnet always points to the magnetic North.
- The Direction of Travel arrow is the one that the kids will line up with the compass bearings on the clues.
How to Make an Orienteering Scavenger Hunt
When plotting your scavenger hunt course, keep in mind the ages of your participants and the number of kids involved. Each child should get a turn at using the compass to help locate a clue. So if you have 5 kids playing, make sure you have at least 5 clues. Write a different child’s name on each clue to show who gets to use the compass and find the next clue, even though they’re working together as a team.
- Pick a starting point where everyone will gather together to look at Clue #1. Mark where you are standing with a rock. At this starting point, look around for a good hiding spot for Clue #2.
- Once you determine a good place (in a bush, hanging from a tree, partially hidden under a rock), determine the compass bearing from the starting point (see To Plot a Compass Course below). Write this down.
- Now you’ll walk to the hiding spot for Clue #2 and count your steps as you go. Make sure your steps are about the size of the kids’ steps. Write down the number of steps you took. This is Clue #1 and you should take it back to the starting point (at the rock that marked your place).
- Back at the location of Clue #2, repeat the steps for creating another hiding spot. Look around for a good hiding spot, orient your compass so that you get the compass bearings of the new hiding spot, and then walk to the location and count your steps as you go.
- Write down the compass bearing and number of steps. This is Clue #3 that you’ll hide in the spot you chose.
- Continue these steps until you have at least as many clues as there are participants. Your last clue should lead to the hidden treasure for everyone to open! Make sure all the kids can reach it, so avoid putting it in a tree or anywhere else that might be out of reach for smaller kids.
To Plot a Compass Course
Once you’ve chosen a hiding spot from your starting point, hold your compass horizontally at waist level. Turn it so that the red arrow points to North. Once it’s pointing North, look toward your hiding spot to see what degrees are pointing toward it on your compass. This is the compass bearing that you’ll write down for your clue.
Remind kids to always stay together and work as a team. Everyone will get a turn to use the compass and lead the team to the next clue, but the team must travel together so that no one gets lost.
Plant a little treat with each clue to keep kids interested. A little chocolate or candy can go a long way to keep kids motivated. Make sure the treats are critter proof if they’ll be sitting outside for a while before the scavenger hunt.
Student Becomes Teacher
After the scavenger hunt is over, give kids the opportunity to plot their own course using the compass. Have them create hiding spots with clues to other hiding spots. See how accurate their compass skills are by doing their scavenger hunt. This gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of using a compass.