Navigating an Outdoor Path

Fifth-grade students familiarize themselves with compasses to complete Bryan Lab scavenger hunt in preparation for Visiting Innovator Barrington Irving.

For many Steward students, their only concept of navigation is using Google Maps. This week, however, fifth-grade students acclimated themselves with an unfamiliar technology by using compasses to navigate themselves around the Bryan Innovation Lab grounds.

Middle School Technology Facilitator Barbara Coates and Bryan Lab Lead Technologist Shane Diller came up with the idea of a compass “scavenger hunt” for the students as part of Ms. Coates’ technology integration curriculum with fifth grade. Instead of using technology that is heavily reliant on the Internet, the teachers wanted to expose the students to something they’ve likely never used before.

In addition, the lesson connects to the upcoming Visiting Innovator event with Barrington Irving: during one of his expeditions, Captain Irving’s technological instruments failed him, so he was forced to use only a compass to find his way.

“When Captain Irving comes next week, the students will have a point of reference as they talk about navigation with this famous explorer,” Ms. Coates said. “I think it was a great opportunity for them to connect with a device that is considered ‘low-tech.’”

For the scavenger hunt, the fifth graders were expected to follow a series of steps laid out by Mr. Diller (who had mapped the trail himself) and navigate themselves from a starting point to an ending point, with only several blue flags to serve as a reference point. The students had to use critical thinking and mathematics to figure out the number of steps they needed to take to get to their marked destinations. Since the length of Mr. Diller’s strides are obviously different than their own, the students had to calculate how many steps they would need to take in comparison to Mr. Diller’s.

“It was tricky trying to figure out which way was north, south, east, and west, as well as how many steps we needed to take, but we figured out a plan eventually,” said Jackson Wright, fifth-grade student. “It was just really fun being outside and getting to explore.”

Though many of the students ended up off course and had to restart, the goal is for them to refine the scavenger hunt so that they may create their own version for other Lower School classes to participate in. This version will also incorporate mathematics and strategizing in order to reach a goal.

“The point was for the students to do the activity and then use what they learned to critically analyze the process and improve it,” Mr. Diller said. “When they create their own trail, they’ll have a much better understanding of how to make it a great experience for everyone.”





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