Development of a Third Grade Orienteering PE Curriculum

by Barbara Bryant and Ethan Childs (Navigation Games)

Graphical abstract of Lesson 1: Boundary, Gathering, and Direction-Giving

This spring (2019), we will be piloting a four-lesson third-grade curriculum in seven Cambridge, MA, public schools.  Because many children struggle with map interpretation, the lessons build up slowly to map reading. We also bring in many aspects of orienteering that do not require a map, such as running in terrain, knowing the boundary of the area of play, giving and following instructions about where to go, building a mental map of an area by exploring it, visiting checkpoints in order, and being timed. Above all, we want to keep the children moving and having fun.

Our constraints included:

  • Four 45-minute classes
  • Minimal set-up on the part of the teacher
  • Use materials accessible to any gym teacher, with timing equipment optional
  • No need for specialized orienteering knowledge on the part of the teacher
  • Be able to deliver the content indoors on days with bad weather
  • A wide range of physical and mental abilities and types

Each lesson is documented with SHAPE America standards, objectives, materials, set-up, language for introducing the activity to students, a description of the activities, and suggestions for a wrap-up discussion. The teachers are given a written copy of the lesson plans. We introduced the lesson plans to teachers in a 45-minute workshop. The workshop started by throwing the teachers immediately into activities: the boundary run and Animal-O. Then we had a conversation about the sport of orienteering and the goals of the curriculum. We finished by arranging the detailed logistics, including the dates and times of the classes, and indoor and outdoor spaces.

During the spring, Navigation Games staff will attend every PE class (54 in total), in order to support the teacher, with the idea that the program will operate independently of us (should they so choose) starting next year. We will gather feedback on the lessons, refine them, and publish them over the summer.

The four lessons have the following topics:

  • Boundary, gathering, and clues
  • Building a mental map (Animal Orienteering)
  • Introducing the map (Animal Orienteering with a map)
  • Racing on a simple map

Below are some notes we gave the teachers:


In orienteering, participants travel outdoors, over an area that eventually includes locations that are outside the view of the teacher. It’s important that children know and can recognize the boundary of the area in which the games are played, so that the notion of boundaries and safe movement becomes ingrained as the area increases over sessions and years.

Students must also be able to return to the teacher on a signal in order to keep track of everyone, make sure no one is lost or hurt, and to provide necessary instruction and information.

Treating each other with respect and care is important as well. With a particular skill, some students will excel while others may struggle, and it’s important for students on either end of the spectrum to work together for success. Students need also be aware of the environment around them to avoid physically running into objects such as trees and rocks, as well as one another.

Observation and Mindfulness

Orienteering is an excellent way for students to practice observation and mindfulness. Being observant of one’s surroundings is a simple necessity for all movement sports, and orienteering includes an added layer of interpreting the map and surroundings, and making small and large decisions about navigating through terrain.

In order to improve, athletes develop an awareness of how their physical and emotional state will affect their performance. When they make mistakes or have trouble finding a checkpoint, they have an opportunity to review why the mistake occurred, and reflect on how they can try things differently in order to improve.

These lessons are designed so that students who are successful have the opportunity to help their classmates improve. As part of this, students must actively listen to and observe their classmates to understand their needs, and be able to address those needs based on their own experiences. Not only do they experience their own success, but they also experience the feeling of helping others succeed.


By using and naming roles, the activities keep children busy and engaged even when they are done with their own course. Including the “Helper” role distributes the responsibility away from the teacher, and helps to ensure every child gains competence in the skills being learned. Both teacher and students should have an explicit goal of making sure that everyone in the class understands the material and achieves success. Having explicitly named roles provides a shortcut in explaining the games, as the roles are used over and over again in different games.

  • Finder — Synonyms: Runner, Orienteer, Participant, Athlete
  • Hider — Synonyms: Course Setter, Game Designer
    • Finding opportunities to give children the chance to design the game is a great way to engage them more fully.
  • Clue-Giver — Synonyms: Direction Giver, Map, Dispatcher
  • Helper — Synonyms: Teacher, Coach.
    • The Helper gets consent before helping a Finder. The Finder may refuse help in order  to accomplish the task on their own.
    • The Helper does not do the task for the Finder, but rather helps the Finder learn and succeed. Give the Helper specific rules about what they can and can not say. For example, you may restrict them to “warmer/colder”. Or to asking questions such as “Where are you on the map?” “Is your map oriented?” “What do you see around you that matches the map?” “Where on the map are you going?” “Which way is that in real life?”
    • Children are often better than the teacher at figuring out how to explain things to a struggling classmate.
  • Spectator — Synonyms: Official, Timer, Counter, Cheerer, Supporter
    • When children complete their activity while others are still on their course, you may give them the option of helping or spectating. Spectating encourages paying attention to others.

In a team orienteering game, members of the team may have various roles related to executing the task. One person may specialize in reading features on the map; another may ensure that the map is correctly oriented; another may keep track of time; another may make sure that everyone’s input is considered, and so on. Building a practice of naming roles sets the groundwork for these future games, and develops life skills for successful collaboration with others.

Maps tell you how to find things

Maps are a way for one person to tell another person how to find things. Some children will be able to understand maps easily, but others will struggle with map interpretation. Therefore, we start with other ways of communicating location and direction, before introducing the map.

The “warmer/colder” game allows communication of direction relative to a single point. The Red/Blue exercise allows communication of direction in two dimensions. Distance is introduced when you say how many steps to go in the given direction.

To emphasize efficient communication of how to find things, instead of timing the activity, try counting the number of instructions that the Clue-Giver gives, and reducing those. (A Spectator can do the counting!)

Timing individuals

There is a timing component built in to some of these lessons, and orienteering is normally a timed sport (similar to cross country, cycling, speed skating, etc.). Timing students as they participate is an excellent way to encourage them to develop their speed, improve their skills, and even practice their memory. It can also provide competition for students who are interested.

It is important to remember, however, that not all students feel comfortable being timed, especially when it’s a new activity they are still learning. Even when timing is used, it’s important to emphasize accuracy in orienteering as opposed to raw speed. Finding all of the correct checkpoints is just as important (if not more important), than finding them quickly.

Timing the whole class

Timing is also used to measure the success of the class overall. This is a very effective way of uniting the students, developing their teamwork, and emphasizing cooperation. In addition, it establishes the expectations that the students are working together as a class, and that every person’s individual actions can affect the group as a whole. It encourages the practice of helping each other learn.

Building a mental map — remembering where things are

Developing a mental map is a very important step in understanding the spatial relationships between objects. By learning and remembering a specific location, students are developing the areas of their brains associated with relative positioning, distance, and imagery, as well as memory itself. When they remember a location, they must recall information important for finding that specific point, such as which side of the room, whether is underneath or on top of something, and what other objects were nearby. While a visual memory such as this may not be a standard orthographic map, their brains are still creating a guide from one place to another based on spatial information.

Matching patterns on a map to patterns in terrain

Spatial pattern identification is the cornerstone of understanding map orientation. The concept is very easy, although it might take a bit of prompting for them to make the connection. It is generally helpful to start out with something simple, but also unique, such as the layout of cones in the Geometric Animal-O.

The important connection the students develop is the relationship between the layout of space and the layout of the map, specifically in how they match. Starting with something simple like a pattern of cones to help establish this connection is an important intermediate step between understanding a basic map and a full-scale orienteering map. As the layout becomes more and more abstract (like a real map), it becomes more and more of a challenge to establish this connection.

Orienting the map

Orienting the map is one of the most fundamental skills necessary for navigation, and for many students is also one of the most challenging concepts to grasp. On the surface this is very simple — the map matches the area around you, so hold the map in the same direction — but for a student whose brain is still developing its capacity to understand the relationship between objects, this is an incredibly confusing task. Make sure students who are struggling receive patient instruction where basic and distinct landmarks are used to convey distance and direction when orienting the map.

This is one area where using student Helpers can be tremendously useful. Students who recently acquired a skill will be better able to communicate the steps necessary for other students to grasp the same concept. It will also keep successful students occupied and interested, while students who struggle will receive the individualized attention they need to learn the skill.


Katelyn Greene of Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) is a co-author on the curriculum, linking our lessons to SHAPE America standards and provided valuable feedback. Jamie McCarthy, Coordinator of K-12 Health and Physical Education for CPS, arranged the opportunity. Tom Materazzo, a CPS PE teacher, was also part of the curriculum development team. Additional CPS PE teachers involved in piloting the program include Carlos Claros-Molina, Steve Lore, Evan Allen, Susan Harris and Mark Antonelli.

The first lesson (Boundary and Gathering) is based on USA Junior Coach Erin Schirm’s middle school lesson plans. Our approach and philosophy is strongly influenced by Erin. The second lesson (Animal-O) is based on reports from Andrea Schneider and David Yee about activities for children at European orienteering events. The orienteering lessons came out of curricula developed by Navigation Games in work from 2015 to 2019 with the Cambridge Community Schools JK-5 after-school classes (led by Barb Bryant, Ethan Childs and Adam Miller), and with JK-5 Physical Education classes at Cambridge Public Schools in the spring of 2018 (led by Melanie Serguiev, with Evalin Brautigam, Tomas Kamaryt, Marie Brezinova, Ethan Childs, and Adam Miller).

A previous four-lesson version was presented at the MAHPERD 2018 conference (with Amanda Klein and Cristina Luis). Many instructors and advisors at Navigation Games have contributed to creating and testing our lessons. We have drawn from the larger world of ideas for children’s orienteering — thank you all!

2018 OUSA Competitive Award Winners Announced

The annual OUSA Competitive Awards are given to top American orienteers in several categories for outstanding competitive performance over the course of the past year. The Awards Committee members are Susan Grandjean, Boris Granovskiy, Linda Kohn, Patrick Nuss, and Ken Walker Sr.

This is the ninth year for these awards, and the fourth year that Orienteering USA members had the opportunity to vote for the candidates. The committee thanks all those who submitted nominations and who took the time to vote for your top OUSA athletes. We had a near-record number of votes cast this year! The vote totals were used as the main component in final award selection.

The Orienteer, Junior, and Comet of the Year award winners each receive a $500 travel grant to help them continue to improve their skills. Additionally, the Honorable Mentions in the three individual categories will receive $100 travel grants.

The Awards Committee would like to thank two anonymous donors for their generous contributions to the travel grants.

Previous Competitive Award winners

Here are the 2018 winners and recipients of honorable mentions (HM). Congratulations to all the winners!

Orienteer of the Year

Awarded to the best U.S. orienteer in 2018, based on results at national and international events

Greg Ahlswede (DVOA / Escondite Nature Sport, Spain)

Greg was among the very best U.S. orienteers at almost every race this year, with top-3 finishes at NAOC (3rd – long, 2nd – middle, 2nd – sprint) and at the U.S. Champs (2nd – long, middle, sprint).

Greg also finished 54th in the WOC long distance final and anchored Team USA to NAOC relay victory.

Honorable Mentions

Alison Crocker (CROC)

Ali made a strong return to the world elite in 2018, finishing 36th in the sprint and 40th in the middle at WOC, Team USA’s best two individual performances.

She also exchanged in 10th place after the first leg of the WOC relay and anchored Team USA to relay victory at NAOC. A win in the long distance at NAOC earned Ali an automatic qualifying spot for WOC 2019.

Anton Salmenkyla (CSU / Helsingin Suunnistajat, Finland)

In his first year as a senior, Anton distinguished himself by qualifying for the middle distance finals at the European Championships in Switzerland, finishing 48th against an extremely strong field. Other highlights include 55th place in the middle distance at WOC and a gold in the middle distance at NAOC, earning an automatic spot for WOC 2019.

Also at NAOC, Anton was part of the relay-winning US Team and finished 3rd in the sprint and 6th in the long distance.

Junior Orienteer of the Year

Awarded to the best U.S. orienteer in 2018 under the age of 21, based on results at national and international events

Tyra Christopherson (COC)

In her final year as a junior, Tyra qualified for the senior WOC team for the second year in a row and was perhaps the top U.S. junior at JWOC, where she finished 66th, 63rd, and 72nd in the three individual distances.

At NAOC, Tyra anchored the dominant U.S. junior women’s relay team to victory and added a sprint gold, middle distance silver, and long distance bronze in F-20 to her collection.

Honorable Mention

AJ Riley (DVOA)

Though still an M-18 runner, AJ had a dominant year in North American racing, sweeping the individual golds at NAOC in M18. He is ranked 1st in the U.S. in M-18 and 4th in M-20 and is the reigning U.S. High School Varsity Champion.

AJ tried his hand at racing against the seniors at the U.S. Champs, winning a bronze medal in sprint in M21.

Comet of the Year

Awarded to the US orienteer who has made the most progress in their orienteering results during the 2018 season

Keegan Harkavy (CSU/NEOC)

As just a 15-year-old, Keegan made the jump from the Orange course to Green in M-18 and finished the year ranked 2nd in that category.

He also earned the bronze medal at the U.S. High School Varsity Championships, and had top-10 finishes at the Billygoat and the Harriman Fall Goat races.

Honorable Mention

Sydney Fisher (SMOC)

Sydney improved from a ranking of 8th to 4th in the F21+ category over the course of the year, raising her OUSA score from 74.75 to 78.85. She was named to the 2018 USA team for the first time as a development member. After training hard through the spring, she came in 3rd in points at her first team trials and was named an alternate to the WOC team for the first time.

She also recorded her first solo overall wins in Rogaining with wins at Green Corn Moon (6 hr) and Legend of the Dogman (18 hr) and earned a silver medal at the U.S. Champs in the long distance.

Team of the Year

Awarded for the best team competitive performance during the 2018 season

U.S. Senior Team at NAOC

Team USA went all the way to the Yukon, Canada and took the Björn Kjellström Cup back from the Canadians. This was a true team effort, as four different team members (Ali Crocker, Tori Borish, Morten Jorgensen, and Anton Salmenkyla) winning individual gold medals, and both the men’s and women’s relay teams claiming golds as well.

Fifteen different competitors contributed to Team USA’s victory.

Honorable Mention

U.S. JWOC Men’s Relay Team

Composed of Thomas Laraia, David Runde, and Martin Borge Heir, the team finished as the 15th country, just 17 minutes behind winning Norway.

This is the best-ever U.S. men’s relay finish at JWOC, improving on last year’s 18th place.

Competition Awards eligibility

To be awarded any of the individual awards a nominee has to be a USA citizen, and must be a member of Orienteering USA in good standing during the current calendar year. Additionally, for the Junior Orienteer of the Year award, the nominee has to be no older than 20 at the end of the calendar year. To be selected for the Orienteering Team of the Year award, all team members have to be Orienteering USA members and represent the U.S. or an OUSA chartered club in competition.

Competitors in any forms of orienteering are eligible, including Foot O, Ski O, Mountain Bike O, Trail O, and Rogaining.

The award winners were selected by a committee appointed by Orienteering USA from a list of candidates nominated by members of the U.S. and international orienteering communities, with voting by OUSA members again guiding the selection this year.

2019 Texas Junior Orienteering Camp

Looking to take your junior orienteering skills to the next level? TJOC is your summer break destination. This intensive 6-day skills-based orienteering training camp is specifically designed for 13–19-year-old orienteers with orange-level course skills and above.

NTOA again hosts this year’s training camp from June 2–7, 2019, and all training, lodging, and meals take place in the air-conditioned spaces at Sid Richardson Scout Ranch in Bridgeport, TX.

Camp cost is $300 for junior participants and $100 for adult leaders.

Many of the best youth orienteers in the nation have graduated from TJOC. Join future champions at TJOC 2019!

Registration is open now! Sign up today!

Contact TJOC Director, Lt Col William Malpass, at or visit the TJOC website at for more information.

Vote for 2018 Orienteer of the Year Awards!

Voting is now open for 2018 OUSA Competitive Awards. The Competitive Award Program’s goals are to recognize and reward outstanding competitive accomplishments by U.S. orienteers at the end of every year.

The awards:

  • Orienteer of the Year is awarded to the best USA orienteer in 2018, based on results at national and international events.
  • Junior Orienteer of the Year is awarded to the best USA orienteer no older than 20 in 2018, based on results at national and international events.
  • Comet of the Year is awarded to the most improved USA orienteer in 2018, based on results at national and international events.
  • Orienteering Team of the Year is awarded to the best USA national or club orienteering team in 2018, based on results at national and international events.

Vote here todayVoting closed February 25th. You can see the lists of previous award winners here.

The winners will be selected by the Awards Committee. Results of the voting will be a major factor in determining winners. Winners of the individual awards will receive grants for travel to orienteering races and training camps. In certain cases, honorable mention will be made for deserving athletes.

– Boris Granovskiy
for the Awards Committee

World Orienteering Day 2019

World Orienteering Day 2019 is May 15-21.  Will your club “Be Part of Something Bigger”? Has your club scheduled its events yet?  School calendars are quickly filling up with activities for May, so you will want to contact your local schools to set a date for an event. 

While WOD emphasizes events for school children, all ages are welcome to join in. Officially, any event within that week can be considered a WOD event, but in the U.S., we are going to include all of May for hosting your WOD event(s). For an event to qualify, it must be registered at the WOD website and have basic participant data provided shortly after the event is held.

WOD, with its worldwide participation, is an ideal way to get people to try our sport. The international slogan, “Be Part of Something Bigger,“ is something that most people, especially children, can get excited about. They can see on the webpage, and on social media that the number of events is growing as their local event date draws near, and they will know that they are part of that huge number if their school is participating. Afterward, they may get the satisfaction of knowing they helped set a new record for the number of people participating in this event around the world. Posts appear regularly on Facebook and Instagram.

As your 2019 WOD Coordinator, I am encouraging you to set some dates as soon as you are able to get as many children as possible doing orienteering in your area for World Orienteering Day.  There is a thread on AttackPointwhere you can get and share ideas about what you can do. Keep it simple; try something new using orienteering games like Maze-O, Animal-O, MOBO, Photo-O or a schoolyard sprint. Any activity that involves orienteering is encouraged. Indoor games or outdoor games are encouraged—anything that gets kids (and adults) having fun finding controls.

So contact your local school, scout troop, homeschool group, nature center, or other group which will be delighted to have your club show up for the day and treat their kids to a fun learning experience.  For more information go to the WOD website, above, or contact me via email.  Let’s work together to make this the best World Orienteering Day yet!

–Mary Jo Childs

2019 U.S. National Orienteering Team Announced

We are excited to announce the U.S. National Orienteering Team members for 2019:


Greg Ahlswede, Giacomo Barbone, Eric Bone, Tori Borish, Alison Crocker, Morten Jørgensen, Jordan Laughlin, Anton Salmenkyla


Alison Campbell, Will Enger, Sydney Fisher


Brigitte Bordelon, Siri Christopherson, Tyra Christopherson, Martin Heir, Michael Laraia, Asne Tromborg

According to OUSA Rules of Competition section G.1.6.2, Senior Team selection is based on:

a. The results of national and international competition.
b. Dedication to the sport of Orienteering.
c. Demonstration of sporting attitude.

From the OUSA website, Criteria for Selection to the Senior Team:

Selection is based on those who submitted Athlete Agreements, indicating their desire to be named to the Sr. Team. From that pool, National meet and international M/F-21+ performances during the preceding year were used to divide the members into Elite, Performance and Development teams.

  • Senior Elite Team — athletes who consistently produce top-level U.S. results in F21/M21.
  • Senior Performance Team — athletes who frequently produce strong U.S. results in F21/M21, at or near the level of the Elite Team.
  • Senior Development Team — athletes who have demonstrated potential to reach Performance/Elite level with further training and experience.

Youth Development and Coaching in Orienteering

The Future is Fun

by Erin Schirm, Junior Team Coach

I recently attended the 2018 U.S. Olympic Committee American Development Model (ADM) and Youth Sports Symposium in Colorado Springs withBarb Bryant [current VP-Youth Initiatives]. The conference brought together a mix of people ranging from youth sports initiative leaders, to people heading up national sports governing organizations. There were two and a half days of presentations and conversations focused on improving sports and making them more kid-friendly. The ADM highlights stages of development similar to the Canadian Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD), which suggests how to approach children at various ages and/or starting out in the sport. It was interesting to note that orienteering is not the only struggling sport and that many of the other national governing bodies are having similar issues.

Throughout the entire conference, there were a number of themes that continued to resurface. The four big ones include: (1) children are the future; (2) great coaching is key; (3) picking focus areas to develop rather than trying to do everything, and; (4) marketing and presenting the content of your sport well. In the following paragraphs I will discuss these themes in more detail.

Children are the future of the sport

This seems like an obvious point of development because kids bring families, and more kids in the sport means the continuation of the sport. The big question is, how to attract kids and retain them? The resounding starting point made in the conference, from a variety of sports, is “FUN!” For example, U.S. Archery starts kids off shooting at a variety of fun targets such as balloons full of paint and powder. U.S. Lacrosse is introducing the sport through fun games, such as keep-away, which naturally develop ingenuity, spacing, and moving to the ball without the coach having to spend a lot of time talking about the concepts.

Another key point is age-appropriate activities. Here, it is important to think back to our childhoods and remember how we played: The variety of games that we made up, the creative play that engaged imagination, our freedom of movement, and the sense awareness that we developed. Yet, it is all too common to think of a child as a small version of an adult, and to introduce sport to them in the way that adults and professionals practice the sport. It is becoming clear that this approach does not work and does not meet the kids’ needs. It ends up bringing in the intellect too fast. A common phrase many of us have here is, “get out of your head,” describing the experience when all activity is jammed up in the head and connection is lost to the surrounding environment. An adult who has had healthy play development and healthy skills development will be able to stay connected while working with a thinking concept.  Introducing a child to concepts too early essentially puts them right into their head, bypassing the stages of play and skill. The question arises, what is the right approach and how might we bring it to orienteering?

The new American Development Model describes that between ages 0-12 activities should be playful and discovery-based.  An example of an orienteering game is Vampire-O. It is a tag game with a navigational theme. Now, Vampire O as we know it usually requires a map. However, it can be simplified by giving a boundary and saying find as many flags as you can without getting tagged in the allotted time.  My experience of orienteering in the U.S. has been that we have great skills development which is appropriate for ages 10-12 and up. From 0-12, kids are developing their basic movement capacities and senses. Thus when you take the map out of Vampire O, kids have to now become aware of their surroundings, remember how to get back without a map, develop their visual sense to locate flags, and above all they enjoy it. All of these are precursor skills to using a map and compass in hand. Another example game is Pirates and Explorers. It’s set up with a base in the middle and a circle of bases at each of the eight cardinal directions. The Pirate starts in open space. The Explorers are given a direction such as NE and have to run to the base without getting tagged by the Pirate. The game ends when either all Explorers are caught or at least one Explorer makes it to all the bases when called and back home without getting tagged. The game teaches spatial awareness, seeing a variety of route choices to get from point A to point B, orientation to the cardinal directions, and gets the kids running, dodging, and playing. To attract more kids to the sport we can start with activities such as these to teach basic skills and make it fun. Once they realize what a great sport we have, the concepts of map reading and compass use make much more sense because the child has an experience of the activity before using the tool.

Great coaches

This is very closely tied to previous theme of children being the future. A coach is often one of the most influential people in an athlete’s life. A poor coach can push a child away from sport altogether. A good coach can inspire an athlete for the entirety of their life. Having a solid coaching program, and people who are passionate — and knowledgeable — about working with and inspiring kids is key. A kid may come back after their first experience because of the impression a good coach left them with. The people signing them up (i.e., mom and dad) pay attention, and if a child comes back glum or down versus energetic and fulfilled you know the answer to what will be cut when the going gets tough.

So how do we attract coaches and then retain them? It starts with finding candidates: keeping an eye out for someone who is good with kids, passionate about youth development, and interested in helping. Once you find them, talk to them, and encourage them to give it a go. And finally, educate them: provide them with information about how to work with kids, and tools to make practice planning easy. This recipe will help retain both coaches and kids, because everyone is thriving and having fun. In short, when you have a good coach, take care of them because they are the lifeblood of your programs, and kids often come back because of the coach. My goal out of this is to mainstream coaching education for the U.S. community and create a simple introductory program, along with the levels and models to highlight a healthy approach, so that the information is readily available when you find someone who is ready to be a coach.

Focused areas of development

You could say the first two themes that I talked about provide the answer for this theme: Where to focus our efforts. Many sports have many applications and arenas. For example, in orienteering we can offer training and events to scouts and JROTC, schools and after-school programs, boys and girls clubs, running groups, and many more. We can provide it in an urban setting, a forest setting, a school setting, a business setting, or an indoor setting. There are many directions to choose from.

It was clear at the symposium that decision makers need to choose a couple of directions and not try to reach everyone all at once. It’s important to note that you can always return to other areas of development once one is sufficiently underway. More importantly, if you can choose areas of development that can be adapted for the future areas of growth, you’re setting yourself up for long term success. For example, kids’ introductory programs will get more families involved, which means more volunteers, which means new potential coaches and potentially new course setters and mappers in the long term. Good education material can easily be adapted for schools, scouts, JROTC, etc. This way you can start expanding with a good core to many areas. Here are some basic steps to decide how to choose a focus area.   

  1. Figure out what you’re interested in and set some goals based on the interests (e.g., more schools doing orienteering in your area)
  2. Figure out what you already have that could serve as a starting point (e.g., a teacher or parent at the school or schools)
  3. Research what makes a program for your target audience effective (e.g., fun, age-appropriate, aligned with teaching standards)
  4. Create a program that is aligned with the best practices from your research (e.g., a game-based navigation activity with a lot of movement and very little talking). Something that can be effective for this step is partnering up with programs and people who can support what you are trying to accomplish with materials or advice.
  5. Track the implementation and make improvements based on observations of what’s working or not working (e.g., the scavenger hunt for the younger kids needed to be more picture-based because not all of them could read)

Once you get started you can use what you created to expand. Using the example above of a school program, once you’ve done it a few times you can adapt it to offer an after-school program for kids, or take elements of it and help incorporate them into kids’ running programs that already exist. At the conference we were introduced to programs such as TrueSport, an education-based program for ethics in sports. Another program was How to Coach Kids, an app with thirty minutes of video to give new coaches the basics for teaching kids. I’m excited to incorporate tools like this to already existing programs to enhance them and highlight even more some of the values in the junior program and Orienteering USA.

Marketing and presentation of the sport

This seems to be one of the main places that eludes us as orienteers. How do we present the sport? One point from the conference is to create good material that lays out core values, philosophies of sport, and educational approaches. For example, U.S. hockey has the slogan “no hockey is bad hockey.” So this means one of their values is to use any kind of hockey for development. This allows them to work together with roller hockey, floor hockey, and other fun versions of the sport. For marketing purposes, this suggests to people that you can start in any version of the sport and still be welcomed in ice hockey.

The slogan that we use for the junior national team is, “it starts at home”. This means that if we can’t do it in the U.S., and if the athletes don’t focus on their training in their local area, we will never reach our highest goals. This suggests a direction for the program as well as a nice marketing concept to use as a rallying cry.

The ADM provides a framework to describe, for example, how to progress the presentation of activities for various audiences participating in the sport. By aligning with the ADM, you are saying that you value play first, age-appropriate activities and elite development, as well as a life-long connection to the sport. At the conference, a multi-sport approach was referenced. It’s becoming common knowledge that a variety of sports at an earlier age is better than focused specialization. So rather than think we have to compete with soccer or baseball or basketball, we should think how can we work with them. This is quite a change from the current environment where the trend is specialization. If you can find ways to work with the youth sports programs in your local areas and fit schedules together, this is a huge selling point. Parents ultimately want what’s best for their kids and by offering programs that work towards healthy growth and child development, you are aligning with what parents are actually looking for. The hardest step is reeducation and I think for us in the orienteering community we have to start with education.

At the foundation of everything here is fun and joy. So my challenge to myself and my challenge to the orienteering community is, how can we make our sport fun in 2019?  Go USA: it starts at home!

Volunteers Needed for Youth Inititiaves and Coaching

In this message:

1 – Call for volunteers for SafeSport administration
2 – Call for volunteers to serve on a new youth coaching working group
3 – Invitation to a presentation on the American Development Model and youth coaching

Call for SafeSport volunteers

OUSA is seeking Compliance Officers and Administrators for its Safe Sport program. We would like to have more than one of each role, in order to share the burden and ensure coverage. If you are interested in either of these roles, please send email to

Responsibilities of an Administrator:

  • Create SafeSport accounts in response to applications
  • Track completion of the course
  • Determine cost based on the individual’s role with OUSA and orienteering; track payments
  • Provide reports to the OUSA Compliance Officers

Responsibilities of a Compliance Officer (who may also be Administrators):

  • Proactively determine who needs to take the SafeSport training
  • Reach out to those persons with information about how to take the training
  • Report quarterly to the President on the number of persons who are out of compliance with the policy
  • Implement the consequences for those out of compliance with the policy
  • Decide whether to grant waivers based on the content of alternative training, and report to the Board on violations of policy
  • Receive reports of violations of the Code, and handle them appropriately

Call for Youth Coaching Working Group volunteers

OUSA is creating a youth coaching working group. The focus of this group will be to generate materials to support the large goal of getting more kids and families involved in the sport through schools, clubs and other youth oriented programs. In order to accomplish this goal there are a few methods that seem to be most effective in attracting more kids to the sport and these are: fun experiences, age-appropriate activities, and good coaching. In 2019 this group will have four goals:

  1. Review the current coaching systems, integrate it into current best practice models, define 3 levels of development and have a finished 3-level course by the end of 2019.
  2. Put together materials that offer a basic tutorial course to anyone interested in teaching kids which can be widely disseminated to clubs, schools, and organizations interested in starting orienteering.
  3. Create, test, and provide a basic kids’ program that clubs can use to introduce the sport widely in their area, which is fun, developmentally appropriate, and game based.
  4. Create, test, and provide a basic curriculum that schools can adopt to teach orienteering, linking it to the national standards in both PE and other relevant subject areas, using basic materials that include simple maps and activities that don’t require expensive equipment.

Please note that most of this work will be accomplished by drawing from the large amount of information and current resources currently available. The main job will be to organize the best materials into a functional format. We are looking for interested people to help this work move forward. The group will start work in January and aim to wrap up by the end of 2019. Please email Erin Schirm, and with interest or to inquire further.

Invitation to online meeting about USOC’s ADM and Youth Coaching

Please join us on Sunday, January 27th at 8:00 pm Eastern time (5:00pm on the west coast), for a one-hour online meeting.

In December, Erin Schirm (Junior Coach and Chair of the Senior Team Executive Steering Committee) and Barb Bryant (Vice President for Youth Initiatives) attended a workshop on the American Development Model and new approaches to youth coaching. We would like to share with you what we learned. We believe that OUSA and its member clubs can benefit enormously from these methods, which are being adopted by sports within the Olympic family and beyond. The emphasis is on keeping kids engaged, forsaking short-term wins for long-term development, age-appropriate activities, and excellent coaching.

You are invited to join us online or by phone on Sunday, January 27th at 8:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm PST. The URL is:

2019 U.S. Junior National Orienteering Team Announced

The JTESC and the coaches of the Junior National Program, Erin Schirm and Greg Ahlswede, are happy to announce the members of the National Junior Program’s Development Team and National Team.

Please join us in welcoming the following athletes to our group for 2019: 

Junior Development Team (JDT):

  • Itzel Barbiere, SOAR
  • Jolie Barga, COC
  • Anna Campbell, COC / NEOC
  • Nathan Collinsworth, ROC
  • Corey Cutshall, QOC
  • Amalie Ertmann, BAOC
  • Isaac Freierman, Cambridge Rindge Latin School
  • Victor Frolenko, DVOA
  • Jacob Hook, LAOC
  • Wyatt Isaac, OCIN
  • Maxwell Janke, QOC
  • Zachary Kuder, QOC
  • Nathan Linardi, GAOC
  • Sam Loustaunau, (club tbd)
  • Kirsten Mayland, DVOA
  • Alexis Merka, QOC
  • Annika Mihata, COC
  • Salinda Miller, OCIN
  • John Phillips, LAOC
  • Ethan Powers, OCIN
  • Oriana Riley, DVOA
  • Alex Suarez, QOC
  • Robert Weller, SOAR

Junior National Team (JNT):

  • Diana Aleksieva, QOC
  • Siri Christopherson, COC
  • Jessica Colleran, COC
  • Julia Doubson, BAOC
  • Christiane Fletcher, GAOC
  • Bridget Hall, NEOC
  • Keegan Harkavy, NEOC
  • Thomas Laraia, MNOC
  • Kai Mihata. COC
  • Aidan Minto, ICO
  • Anthony (AJ) Riley, DVOA
  • David Runde, MNOC / Kristiansand OK (Norway)
  • Caroline Sandbo, COC
  • Adrian Vartia, OK Löftan (Sweden)
  • Piotr (Peter) Zakrevski, HVO

More information about the National Junior Program can be found on their page.

The work starts at home and we are looking forward to a great year. Go USA!!