Once your students have mastered the concept of following or drawing a map that leads to a physical location and are able to understand a bit more complex material, you can move on to more difficult treasure hunts!
Mapping with Elementary and Middle-Grade Students
Have your students draw a map of your house or yard. Show them the mapping tips explained in #2 of this series and help them only if they need it.
Hide the treasure somewhere in the house or yard and pick a starting point some distance away.
Do not draw a path on the map. Instead, decide what path you want your students to take and give them written directions on how to follow it. The best way to do this is to start at the starting point and walk the path yourself. Write down the directions as you walk along so that your students can follow the same path that you did. Use specific directional words like right, left, forward, backward, over, under, and so forth.
Use instructions such as this example:
- Walk forward 10 feet.
- Turn right and walk 5 feet to the fallen tree.
- Turn left and walk the length of the fallen tree.
- Walk forward 20 feet in the direction that the fallen tree points.
- Turn right and walk 10 feet.
- Look under the big rock.
For measuring distance, you can use either steps or feet/yards. Try these tips for both:
- Steps – It is much less work to write down how many steps you took, but keep in mind that the length of your students’ stride may be different from yours. Do a quick test to see if you need to take bigger or smaller steps to match the natural length of your students’ stride. Adjust your stride accordingly as you are creating the directions. Another option is to walk along with your students as they follow the directions so they can use you as a living measuring stick. Do not offer them any help; only follow them around and walk the number of steps they tell you to walk when they need an accurate distance measurement.
- Feet – If you decide to measure in feet, take along a tape measure to measure your distance. Make sure your students have a tape measure to use while they are following your directions to the treasure. If you have only one student, it helps to send along a friend to hold the other end of the measuring tape.
- As your students follow the written directions, have them stop occasionally to record their progress. They can bring the map they made earlier on a clipboard and draw out the path they take as they follow instructions.
- Variation: You can choose to either give your students all the directions at once or hide them along the path as clues. Give them only the first 3 or 4 steps to start. If they follow those directions correctly, it should lead them to another hidden set of directions. You can make the path as complicated as you want, with further instructions hidden in all kinds of hard-to-reach places. You can even mix it up by giving part of the path in written directions and other parts drawn on your map.
For students who are a little older, begin to set up the treasure hunt the same way as for the middle-grade students in #3 of this series. This time however, when planning the path, use a compass. Instead of using “left” and “right,” use cardinal directions. For example, use “Begin at the oak tree and head west for 10 feet.”
Cardinal directions are the four main points on a compass: north, south, east, and west. You can also add inter-cardinal directions, which are the four intermediate points on a compass: northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. Explain these concepts to your students before they start the hunt.
After they have successfully found the treasure, give them the compass, tape measure, and paper and have them make a treasure hunt for you or a friend.
In #5 (and last) of this series, we will look at mapping with older students and try some geography-oriented activities.
In 1991, Bob and Maggie Hogan began homeschooling their two young sons. The first years were exciting and challenging, but with little curriculum available, they had to work hard to find or develop their own materials. As they created materials that worked well for their family, Maggie began speaking and encouraging others at homeschool conferences. Her handouts grew longer until Bright Ideas Press was born. Bright Ideas Press promises to publish Christ-oriented, affordable, and easy-to-use curriculum that will fit into homeschoolers’ hectic lives. See their popular products, such as The Mystery of History series, All American History, Illuminations, and recently, WonderMaps.