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Pathfinders Pre-Camp Lesson Plan

Pathfinders Pre-Camp Lesson Plan

(Grade 3-6)compassWest


From the beginning of time, people and animals have used various techniques to navigate throughout the world. To prepare for the Pathfinders class at Heartland, students will learn about some of these methods of navigation. In addition, they will create their own compasses to understand how these tools work.


  • Students will develop research skills
  • Students will understand one of the different ways animals navigate
  • Students will practice presenting information to their peers
  • Students will understand the basic concept of how compasses work


  • Computer
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Sewing needles (one per group)
  • Small magnets (one per group)
  • Corks (one per group)
  • Small cups of water (one per group)
  • Pair of Pliers (one per group)


  • Introduction & vocab       –  30 min – 1 hour
  • Migrations                        –  1-3 days
  • Create Compass             –  1 hour


Tell the students that when they go to camp at Heartland Conference Retreat Center, they will be taking a class that teaches how to use a compass. Ask: “What are compasses used for?” Wait for responses. “A compass is one tool people use to help them to figure out geographic directions. The needle on a compass will always point to the north. Compasses help us to navigate. Who has heard the word ‘navigate’ before? Who can tell me what this word means?” A simple definition of Navigate is the process of an individual finding their way from point A to point B.  “Why is it important to navigate? What happens when we do not know how to navigate?”

“Using a compass is only one way to figure out how to get places. What are other ways we navigate? What are some ways you know how to get places?”

“Does anyone know how compasses work? Did you know that the entire earth is like one big magnet? A compass points to the North because of the magnetic force of the earth. The magnetic pull from the magnetic pole in the Arctic attracts the magnet inside the compass. This causes the compass needle to point to the North. Let’s define a couple of the words I just said. First of all, raise your hand if you know what a magnet is. Does anyone think they can define the word ‘magnet’?” Let a few students respond. “What about magnetic force. What do you think this is?” A magnetic force is a force caused by the electricity in the atoms of an item (usually a metal). It tends to attract or push away other magnetic objects. “I also mentioned that the Earth has a magnetic pole. What do you think I meant by that? A magnetic pole on the Earth is caused by the planet’s natural magnetism. There are two magnet poles, north and south. These are the locations with the strongest magnetic force. This is why a compass points north.

“Now that we know how a compass works, let’s learn about the parts of a compass. I am going to pass out a worksheet with a simple picture of a compass and we will label it together.” (Pass out the “Parts of a Compass Worksheet.”) Go through each part.

  1. Base Plate: The flat parts of the compass. Always keep the base plate parallel with the ground. If it is perpendicular, it will read incorrectly
  2. Needle: The red needle always points north.  Never follow the red needle unless you want to go north.
  3. Dial: The movable circle that has the degrees of the circle listed.
  4. Orientation Arrow: The arrow on the base of the dial, usually with stripes
  5. Direction of Travel Arrow: The arrow on the base plate that points forward. This should always point in the same direction of their toes or straight out from their belly button.
  6. Degrees: A circle is divided into 360 degrees.  An angle is made of degree and shows how far away from North you are.  As you increase in degree you increase your angle. North = 0 or 360, East = 90, South = 180, and West = 270. More precision can be gained by using actual degrees instead of north, south, east and west.


Nature Navigation

“We talked a little bit about compasses and navigation. What are some reasons people may need to travel?” Some ideas may include trade, exploration, moving to a new place for new opportunities (ex. pioneers or pilgrims), early hunter gatherer societies may have followed game migrations, etc.

“Those are all really great reasons for people to travel. What about animals? Do animals ever travel? What are some reasons an animals may travel?” Find new territory, search for food, shelter, mates, etc. “What is it called when animals make seasonal journeys?” Migrations. “Why do you think that animals may migrate?” Food availability, water availability, habitat requirements for different life cycle stages, and weather conditions. Can any of you think of some examples of animals that migrate for different reasons?” Explain to the students that they will have the opportunity to learn more about animal migrations. Have the students choose an animal that migrates. Either alone or in groups, the students will research about that animal migration: why the animal migrates, where it migrates to and from, and how it navigates (how it knows where it is going). After students gather information, they can create a poster or some other creative way to present their information to the rest of the class. Examples may be:

  • North American birds – migrate due to seasonal changes that affect food availability.
  • Salmon – migrate to lay eggs in calm freshwater streams and then live in the ocean as adults
  • Arctic Tern – longest migration known of any animal. It travels about 43,000 miles every year from pole to pole so that it will experience summer in both the southern and northern hemisphere.
  • African Wildebeest – migrate because of water and food availability
  • Monarch Butterflies – for food and breeding grounds

(There are many videos online that have examples of many types of migrations. Also, there are some clips from Planet Earth that highlight migrations as well.)

People do not know the exact methods that animals use to help them to navigate. However, there are several theories.

  • Some birds use the magnetism of the earth to migrate. Similar to an internal compass!
  • Birds use landmarks such as shorelines and mountain ranges
  • Birds may navigate using the sun, moon, and stars
  • Birds may learn where to go from their parents. Sometimes, if birds are raised in captivity, people need to teach them how to migrate. Check out this David Attenborough video about whooping cranes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYyLgpetelg

For more about bird migrations, visit nnageotte.wix.com/birds


Before practicing compasses at camp, we will learn how they work by making our own compass. Visit the following site for directions on how to create your own compass.


Now that you know how to create a compass and have a basic idea about how compasses work, you are ready to practice navigating at Heartland!


  • COMPASS: A tool used to determine directions. The needle of a compass points to the north.
  • NAVIGATION: The process of an individual finding their way from point A to point B.
  • MAGNETIC FORCE: A force caused by the electricity in the atoms of an item (usually a metal). It tends to attract or push away other magnetic objects.
  • MAGNETIC POLE: The two places on earth (North and South) with the strongest magnetic force.
  • BASE PLATE: The flat parts of the compass. Always keep the base plate parallel with the ground. If it is perpendicular, it will read incorrectly.
  • DIAL: The movable circle that has the degrees of the circle listed. Explain that the numbers are called degrees or bearing.
  • DEGREES: A circle is divided into 360 degrees.  Each longer line stands for 10 degrees and each smaller line stands for 2 degrees.  An angle is made of degree and shows how far away from North you are.  As you increase in degree you increase your angle. North = 0 or 360, East = 90, South = 180, and West = 270. More precision can be gained by using actual degrees instead of north, south, east and west.
  • NEEDLE: The red needle always points north.  Never follow the red needle unless you want to go north.  Follow the direction of the travel arrow, which will be discussed later. The black part of the needle is used for backtracking, which we will not do.
  • ORIENTATION ARROW: The arrow on the base of the dial, usually with stripes.
  • DIRECTION OF TRAVEL ARROW: The arrow on the base plate that points forward. This should always point in the same direction of their toes or straight out from their belly button.

 Parts of a Compass Worksheet




Archery Post-Camp Lesson Plan


(Grades 3-6)


After returning from camp with their archery experience fresh in their minds, students will relate this experience to science. They will try out a hands-on experiment shooting rubber bands.  Then they will play a computer game that teaches velocity and angle.



  • Students will be able to relate archery with aspects of physical science
  • Students will understand that the amount of force and the angle on the projectile results in where the projectile ends up.


Grade Levels:

  • Grade five: The amount of change in movement of an object is based on the mass of the object and the amount of force exerted.
  • Grade six: An object’s motion can be described by its speed and the direction in which it is moving.


  • Rubber bands (could also use play bows and arrows or nerf guns.
  • Computers with internet access
  • Lab sheet handouts
  • Sidewalk Chalk (1 piece per group)
  • Measuring tape (1 per group)
  • Pens


  • Classroom
  • Outside on the blacktop (can be modified to a hallway or gym)
  • Computer lab if classrooms do not have individual computers or tablets


  • Introduction                                            –                                              30 min
  • Rubber Band shoot Lab                      –                                              1-2 hours
  • Computer Game                                    –                                              45 min – 1 hour


“Think back to our experience in the archery class. What caused the arrow to travel all the way to the target? How come it did not stop sooner? What happened if you drew the string back all the way to your cheek? What happened if you only drew the string back halfway?

Is drawing the string back the only thing that affects how far the arrow will go?” No. It is not. “What else do you think might affect where the arrow ends up?”

Gravity: Gravity is the invisible force that keeps us connected to the ground. If you throw a ball into the air, gravity is what makes it fall back down. Gravity is constantly pulling everything down. During archery, you should be aware that your arrow is not going to fly in the direction you shot it forever. Gravity will eventually bring it down to the ground. (For another resource to teach students about gravity, there is a Magic School Bus episode that addresses this concept).

Wind: Wind may also affect where your arrow ends up. A small wind may blow the arrow a little bit off target and a big wind may blow the arrow a lot off target. Archers can get very good at determining where the wind is going and how fast. They can adjust where they aim so that the arrow goes where they want it to.

Angle: “Do you think that there is a difference if you aim straight ahead of you or straight up in the air? Which way do you think would cause the arrow to travel farther? What about if you made the angle halfway between the two?” (Take a vote with the class to see which they think would go farther).


Rubber Band Shooting Experiment

“We are going to investigate how angle affects the distance of the arrow. Because we do not have access to bows and arrows here, we will shoot rubber bands instead.” (Have students get into lab groups and pass out the lab sheets. Explain the procedure and experiment. Teach the students how to shoot rubber bands and then take them outside. If you do not know how to shoot a rubber band, you can look  )

(Alternatively, you could also use this as an opportunity to insert scientific inquiry into the lesson. Present the question to the students but do not hand out the procedure worksheets. Have the students work in their groups to form a hypothesis and come up with a method to test it out. The students will follow their method to find the answer to their question. They can either use the provided data sheet or make their own data sheets. The question that will be investigated is: Do rubber bands travel farther if they are shot straight ahead or at a 45 degree angle?)

Safety: Be sure to tell students not to shoot each other or not to shoot if anyone is in the path of the shooting. Remind them of the safety rules at the archery range.

Computer Game

The students can also investigate how angle and velocity work together to determine where the projectile will end up. Students will work in pairs and compete against each other. Have students go to the following website: http://www.kongregate.com/games/Moly/gorillas-bas

They will follow the directions on the screen. Each student plays as a gorilla. The point is to throw an exploding banana at your opponent by entering in the angle and velocity. Students will use a trial and error method to complete this activity.

After the game, have the class come together to discuss what they learned and how it relates to archery.

Archery and Angles Lab Sheets


  1. Take the measuring tape and make a straight line on the blacktop in front of you.
  2. Use the chalk and make a line at each foot.
  3. Shoot the rubber band straight ahead of you so that it is parallel with the ground. Record how far the projectile traveled.
  4. Repeat this so that everyone in your group has the chance to shoot.
  5. Now shoot the rubber band at a 45o angle up in the air. Record where the projectile landed.
  6. Repeat this so that everyone in your group has the chance to shoot.
  7. If there is time, experiment with different angles of shooting.

What is the question you are investigating?


What is your hypothesis? What do you predict and why do you predict this?


Angle Student 1 Distance Shot Student 2 Distance Shot Student 3 Distance Shot Student 4 Distance Shot Student 5 Distance Shot Student 6 Distance Shot
Straight Ahead
45 degrees


Which angle allowed the rubber band to be shot farther?


Why do you think this happened?


Did this support your hypothesis? Why or why not?


How does this experiment relate to archery?


A constellation is a group of stars that form a pattern. There are 88 recognized constellations. The constellations that are visible differ throughout the year based on the revolution of the Earth around the sun. So why do people make patterns in the stars? This is something people have done for thousands of years. Constellations were used for navigating through deserts or across oceans, knowing when to plant or harvest, and as a reminder about ancient stories and myths.  The Big Dipper is a very well known pattern of stars but is not a constellation in itself. It is a part of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. The two stars of the Big Dipper that makes the end of the ladle point to the North Star, also called Polaris. Polaris is directly above the North Pole and is a valuable star to use for finding north. Polaris is also the last star on the handle of Ursa Minor, which we also call the Little Dipper.

Summer is on the horizon, and with it comes many warm, clear evenings. This would be a perfect time for stargazing. Some constellations you should expect to see this summer include Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Draco, Cygnus, Hercules, Scorpius and many others. Grab your telescope and explore outer space!

By |2014-05-23T12:00:05+00:00May 23rd, 2014|Ohio Outdoors|0 Comments

National Archery in Schools Program

Archery in Your School

So you want to start an archery program in your school? Great! Here is one resource that you can use.

Ohio has a National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. You can get this information at the following website:


NASP provides curriculum that is aligned to national standards. Before using this curriculum, teachers must participate in a free, day long training course. After the training course is complete, the teacher will be certified to use the NASP curriculum and can apply for a grant for up to $2,500.00 to help with initial startup costs. To apply for this grant, visit the above website. Click on the “Get Started” tab. From there, you can download the Grant Packet.

By |2016-10-13T15:26:55+00:00May 7th, 2014|Educator Resources|0 Comments

World Penguin Day

What is black and white and waddles all over?

A Penguin!

Did you know that there are 17 species of penguins in the world and they are all found in the Southern Hemisphere? The only exception to this is Galapagos Penguin (Pictured below). This penguin occasionally visits islands just north of the equator.

Of all 17 species of penguins, 13 are considered threatened or endangered. A lot of the threats to penguins come from human caused sources such as  pollution, habitat loss, introduced species, and over fishing by humans. But despite the negative affect humans can have on penguins, there is a lot we can do to help protect these awesome birds. First of all, it is important to make people aware of the threats to penguins. This is one reason that World Penguin Day is celebrated every April 25. Other ways to get involved is to support organizations such as zoos which fund research and conservation for these amazing birds. Also, be aware of what seafood you are eating and where it comes from. Try to avoid eating fish and other seafood from sources that are not fished sustainably. For more information about sustainable seafood, check out “Seafood Watch” at http://www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_aboutsfw.aspx

Happy World Penguin Day!


By |2016-10-13T15:26:55+00:00April 24th, 2014|Conservation|0 Comments

Return of the Birds

The following was originally posted in the April 2012 Nature Notes, Heartland Outdoor School’s newsletter:

As spring creeps northward, it seems to be traveling on the wingtips of migratory birds. The majority of North American bird species migrate. Some Ohio species may not travel much further south than Kentucky while others may go all the way to South America! Many people believe these migrations are to escape the cold, but it is actually due to food availability. As the temperature drops, food becomes scarce and the birds must travel to areas with more food.

In the spring, flowers bloom, animals come out of hibernation and bugs emerge. All this activity transforms the north into an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds. Additionally, trees and bushes grow new leaves on their branches, which create prime nesting real estate. All types of migratory birds, from hummingbirds to raptors (hawks and eagles), travel north to take advantage of these resources. Some of these birds will be spending the summer with us here in Ohio. Others will just be passing through as they travel further north to Canada. As you go out this spring, keep an eye out for some of these marvelous migrants!


By |2016-10-13T15:26:55+00:00March 31st, 2014|Ohio Outdoors|0 Comments

Creative Hikes

Walking is a great form of exercise, whether it’s up a mountain or around the block. Walking with a group of people promotes safety and bonding. Encourage your class or family to take a walk together and enjoy the numerous benefits.

For the unexperienced hiker, even a short walk may seem daunting. Even regular hikers may long for new activities to spice up their walking routines. Here are a few new activities to try.

  1. Whenever you come to a corner or a fork-in-the-road, flip a coin. Heads means you turn left, and tails means you walk right. Keep flipping coins until you return to your starting point, which could take either a few minutes or several hours!
  2. Create a scavenger hunt list filled with items that are likely along your walking path. No returning home until the entire list is checked off!
  3. Play the alphabet game. Find something that begins with the letter A, then B, and so on until you reach Z. This is a fun way to teach young children letters and spelling, but even older kids can get excited by this challenge!
  4. Purchase an inexpensive guide book or download field guide apps on your smartphone or tablet. Field guides will help you identify birds, plants, insects, or many other things you will see in nature. Make a few stops along your walk, find an interesting specimen, and see if you can figure out what it is.
  5. Make it a mystery! Ahead of time, the adults plan a secret destination, such as an ice cream shop or a park. On the walk there, the kids try