The New England Orienteering Club

Finding Your Way badge

by Jane Torpie

With just a little planning, it’s possible to earn the entire Finding Your Way badge at an NEOC Scout-O event (either a one-day event or a weekend). These instructions explain how to do that.

Girl Scout Juniors will also complete requirement 5 of the Hiker badge.

Girls must complete 6 requirements to earn the Finding Your Way. Requirements 1, 2, 3, and 4 can easily be completed at the Scout-O weekend. With a little extra time, requirement 8 could also be completed.

Girl Scout leaders have the option of tailoring badge requirements to meet the needs and resources of their groups, as long as they follow the spirit of the badge. For example, leaders can substitute the following from the Boy Scout Orienteering merit badge for requirement 9 of the Girl Scout Finding Your Way badge:

Do the following:
  1. Identify (some number) of international control description symbols. Tell the meaning of each symbol.
  2. Show a control description sheet and explain the information provided.

Read this entire document first. You will need to have all of the items listed, and you may need to do requirement #8 in the morning of the Scout-O.

Bring these items to an NEOC Scout-O weekend:

  • For each girl

    • a compass with a baseplate, and declination markings (ideally set-and-forget declination adjustment).

  • For the group

    • a hiking map (such as one from an AMC trail book) showing declination adjustment (look by the legend for the North symbol, which should have an arrow slightly off to the side, with something like 13o West)

    • A declination map of the US (do an Internet search for “declination map.”) This usually shows a line between approximately Minneapolis and south Florida. The map need not be detailed.

    • A road map showing both your town and the town where the Scout-O meet is happening

    • A diagram of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper constellations, with the North Star and the “pointer stars” of the Big Dipper marked

    • A few types of maps for the same location:

  • orienteering map*

  • topographical map**

  • road map**

  • aerial photo** (optional)

* This can come from NEOC Scout-O leader training, or ask NEOC for an old event map to use for teaching purposes. They’ll probably be happy to help with this.

** These can come from Google or Mapquest.

Many people intuitively prefer to teach the theory of using a compass and then take the girls out to practice what they have learned. However, because 4th and 5th grade girls are very concrete in their learning, a counter-intuitive approach often works better. NEOC will provide instructors upon advance request.

  1. First, take the girls on practice orienteering course, so they get a concrete understanding of navigating through an area by using a map.

  2. Then work on the symbolic ideas of the 4 cardinal directions, true north vs. magnetic north (declination), taking bearings, and using map and compass together.

On the instructional day, try doing a practice White course as a large group. As the girls become proficient in their map and compass usage at different rates (some girls learn more quickly than others), the groups tend to split up naturally. Using smaller groups, do another practice course (White or Yellow). These groups can choose to walk or run the course.

On the meet day, do the meet, and then use the time between the meet and the awards ceremony to complete the rest of the requirements. (As allowed by GSUSA, requirement 9 below is a modification of the requirement printed in the Junior Girl Scout Badge Book, according to the needs of the girls and the available resources.) The requirements are listed in the next section.


You can do these requirements at Scout-O:

1 – Show the maps (orienteering, topographical, road, aerial) and discuss similarities and differences.

2 – Ask two older girls to the show the relative locations of true north and magnetic north on the map showing declination.

3 – Use a ruler, a stick, or a piece of string to measure the distance on a road map between your town and the location of the Scout-O, and use basic math skills to compute the travel time at normal driving speed.

4 – Do this requirement as written.

8 – Do this and look at the location of the sun (east in morning, south at noon, west at dusk), comparing it to the time on a watch, to see how accurate this method is. Show and discuss the North Star diagram. (The North Star is only 1o off from true north.)

9 – Instead of doing this as written in the requirements, modify this requirement by using an idea from the Boy Scout Orienteering Merit Badge book. Show the orienteering map with the legend covered and ask the girls to point out various symbols. For example:

  • “Show me an open area.”

  • “Show me a stream.”

  • “Show me where the well is located by the path.”

  • “Where on the map does the stream come out of the marsh?”

  • “Where on the map is the rock wall that ends at the path by the cliff?”


Finding Your Way Badge Requirements
Complete any six of the following requirements to earn this badge:

  1. Know Your Maps
    There are many different kinds of maps. There are maps that show you travel routes, landmarks, or bus routes, and topographical maps that describe the terrain of a portion of land. Collect three different types of maps or charts that include the place where you live or an unit you would like to visit. Be able to explain what kinds of maps they are and the information each gives about the unit

  2. North, South, East, West
    A compass is a tool that is used to help you find north, south, east, and west. Show that you know how to use a compass by:
    - Explaining how to adjust a map for the difference between true and magnetic north.
    - Talking a compass bearing from a map and following it.
    - Sighting an object, walking to it, and returning to your starting point.

  3. How Long and How Far
    Maps can help you figure out how much time you will need to get to a specific place. This helps when you are planning a trip, whether it's a walk to the park or a drive to a relative's house. First you need to find out how far away a place is. Using the scale of your map, figure out how many miles or kilometers it is to your destination. Now determine how long it would take to drive to this place. Don't forget to factor in some time to deal with things like traffic, terrain, and weather, etc. Check your calculations by using a map site on the Internet or ask an adult to look them over.

  4. Map Maker
    Has anyone ever asked you how to get someplace? One way to help is by drawing a map. Draw a map of your route to school, to  a shopping center, or to a favorite spot. Ask someone else to test your map by following it. Be sure to include a legend or key which explains they symbols you used and the compass directions.

  5. Map of the Place
    Maps aren't just for roads. Sometimes once you have arrived at your destination, you need a different kind of map to tell you where things are located at that particular place. For example, you may need a map of the inside of a local museum to find out where the dinosaur display is. Draw a map to scale of a specific place (a local park or inside your school), locating major landmarks and other important features. Include a legend or key, which explains the symbols you used, a scale, and compass directions.

  6. Make a Model
    Make a 3-dimensional model of a portion of a topographical map to show contour intervals of the hills and valleys.

  7. Find Your Way w/out a Map or Compass
    What would happen if you found yourself lost without a map or compass? Could you find your way back to safety? Learn how to look at the sun, the stars, and the nature around you to show you the way home. For example, to find which way is north, locate the North Star in the night sky or look for moss, which grows on the north side of a tree. Show your troop or group that you know how to find north, south, east, and west by using the sun, stars, and other natural signs. Describe to the group what natural signs lost hikers could use to find their way back to camp.

  8. Trail Signs Traffic
    One way to find your way while walking or hiking is by leaving trail signs. These are made by arranging rocks, grass, and sticks in a specific way to indicate a direction. Learn about as many different trail signs as you can. Use your knowledge of trails signs to set up a mini-trail in your backyard, park, or schoolyard. Teach the various trail signs to your troop or group and then set the group loose to follow your mini-trail. Perhaps you could include a hidden prize at the end of the trail.

  9. Bus and Train Maps
    Some maps don't list roads, they list routes - bus and train routes that is! Learn how to use a local bus or train map, or the bus/train map of a city you would like to visit. Choose a place within that city and map out how to get there using public transportation. Don't forget that some destinations require you to transfer onto another bus or train. If it is possible, with an adult, put your route to the test by taking the bus or train to your destination.