Compass Bearing Geometry

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This activity allows the Scouts to practice and improve walking accurately on a compass bearing. Use simpler geometric shapes for beginners and make them more difficult (add a "side") as they get more accurate. You will need a large, flat area - inclines make accurate pacing difficult.


Coloured-headed drawing pins
Small, coloured sticky dots


- Place a line or group of small markers (eg coloured drawing pins or sticky dots) on the ground, towards one edge of the activity area; each one needs to be a different colour; each shape to be walked will start at a different marker
- Work out your starting compass bearing for each shape; this will depend upon the area you are using and the location of the markers; it is easiest if you stand with your right big toe over the marker for that shape, and find a bearing that takes you well off to the left
- For each shape, work out the remaining bearings, as follows: for a triangle, add 120 to get the second bearing, then add 120 again to get the third bearing; for a square, add 090; you will need to do this three times, to get four bearings; for a pentagon, add 072, four times, for five bearings; for a hexagon, add 060, five times, for six bearings; for an octagon, add 045, seven times, for eight bearings; for a nonagon, add 040, eight times, for nine bearings; for a decagon, add 036, nine times, ten bearings; NOTE: whenever the total becomes greater than 360, subtract 360

- Give the Scout a Silva compass, and make sure they know how to walk on a bearing
- Ask them to stand with their right big toe over the marker for the shape they are attempting
- Give them the starting bearing, and ask them to walk 10 paces on that bearing
- Give them the next bearing, and ask them to walk 10 paces
- Repeat for each bearing in the shape
- if they have walked accurately (with even paces and on the correct bearing) their right big toe should be directly over the marker they started at

Additional Information:
As dividing 360 by 7 gives a fractional number of degrees, it is not possible to walk a hexagon accurately. Unless you are a Super Scout!

Start with the triangle, and work your way up as the Scouts get more accurate.

Try to use colours for the markers that tend to blend in to the background a bit - this makes it harder for the Scouts to cheat by picking out their marker on the last leg and adjusitng their stride to reach it exactly.

The more bearings involved in the shape, the bigger the area you will need for the activity.

as a variation you could run this activity in the dark using glowsticks as markers

How to walk on a bearing properly:
- Set the bearing on the compass;
- Hold the compass so the direction of travel arrow is pointing directly away from you;
- Turn yourself (and the compass with you) until the red end of the needle is directly over the arrow marked on the bottom of the dial;
- Look up, straight ahead of you, and pick an object that you can see clearly
- Walk the required number of paces directly towards that object;
- DO NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE COMPASS WHILE YOU WALK - It is inaccurate and, in the "real" world, you will walk yourself off a cliff.

SAFETY - Make sure the area is flat, and free from trip hazards.


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