By Alana Commons
This summer, Navigation Games is hosting community events at Magazine Beach every Wednesday. These events are focused on giving children the opportunity to learn about and experience the sport of orienteering. Today marked our first day for this program.
As a nonprofit, our organization is allowed to employ teens from the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP). These kids, along with volunteers, create the main task force of NG. Bubbling with anticipation and excitement, they began the day setting up courses and learning how to operate various stations and equipment. Each was divided into groups, tasked with various means, and set to work. A majority of the teens ran the start/finish procedure: handing out new courses to arriving children from the community, recording times on the leaderboard, downloading personal keepsakes, and instructing kids on how to use e-punches. Others monitored the park and walked those confused through courses–teaching them how to identify map symbols and connect them with their surroundings, orient a map, and find controls.
The courses themselves were divided into four levels of difficulty. The beginner-level exercise—for young children completely unfamiliar with navigation and orienteering—gave the kids a sheet of animal pictures and tasked them with finding all controls marked with each animal. Once they were successful, the kids were handed different patterns of animals to find in a specific order. Children proficient in that task were challenged to complete one of three intermediate-level courses available. These courses used a simple map to find controls spread throughout a small area of the park. The advanced-level courses had more difficult maps, encompassing a larger portion of the park and requiring a more in-depth understanding of map symbols and navigation. The final course—the Poison Score-O—was mainly run for the MSYEP kids and any adventurous citizens attending the event. The Poison Score-O is a race against the clock to punch ten specific controls, without visiting any decoy controls not marked on the map. Extra, incorrect controls are considered “poison”, and counted against the participant’s final score.
The entire event lasted around an hour, and everyone involved had a blast, kids and teens alike. As the children left, smiling and worn-out, the teens spent some time reflecting on the day’s events. They discussed the program’s ups and downs, pros and cons, and planned improvements for next time. Altogether, the morning was a success, and everyone was left waiting for a next time.