The map is where teaching should begin—orientation, identification of marked symbols, contours, scale, etc. Much of this material is covered (at least in part) in geography and allied subjects, but there is often work to be done when attempting to use classroom knowledge in the field. The field is by far the best place to show landforms clearly, and to show the relationship between contours and the countryside. Orienteering is a natural offshoot of teaching and learning navigation; it’s an international sport, and requires a very fine understanding of map reading. Rogaining is also an activity that school students have participated in, and has great benefits in terms of learning to read a map carefully. Do not start with a compass, particularly not with the ‘compass on the map, turn the dial’ routine. This both stifles any interest in bushwalking by making it appear as a complex mathematical routine, and concentrates the activity on the compass rather than on the land and the map.

Particular exercises to really build an understanding of navigation include:

  • following a course through the bush, then trying to mark this on a map
  • following a course marked by a line on a map
  • map memory exercise
  • other exercises that can be found in books on orienteering.

Compasses should be introduced early, with a prime use of orienting a map. Taking and using bearings are better covered later, possibly when trips are planned that may require such navigation.