You will need
- Torch or phone
Before you begin
- Look through the ‘Torchlight Morse code’ sheet so you understand the idea and can answer any questions the group may have.
- Make sure you have a suitable outdoor space set out. Mark out boundaries if you need to.
Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include:
- Make sure that everyone knows the plan for dropping young people off (and picking them up again).
- Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session. Everyone should wash their hands before and after they use equipment.
- Make sure you have enough torches so that everyone has their own. You could ask anyone that has one to bring it from home if your group doesn’t have enough.
Learn Morse code
- The person leading the activity should separate everyone into small, socially distanced groups.
- Everyone should get a copy of the ‘Torchlight Morse code’ sheet and look at the code. If it’s already really dark, they should use their torches to help them.
- The person leading the activity should explain that a dot is one unit long and a dash is three units long. The space between parts of the same letter is one unit, the space between letters is three units, and the space between words is seven units.
- The adult in each group should show everyone how to use their torch to represent the dashes and dots. They should spell out a simple word (such as their name) as an example.
- Everyone should practise using their torch to send their name, using the ‘Torchlight Morse code’ sheet to help them. It’s up to them whether they turn the torch on and off or cover the lamp.
Send Morse messages
- Everyone should split into two teams that are the same size. If you have an odd number of people, the person leading the activity should join in.
- Each team should decide on a word or short phrase that they want to send the other team. Their word or phrase should have the same number of letters as the number of people in the group.
- Everyone should decide who’ll send each letter. They should use the ‘Torchlight Morse code’ sheet to learn their letter in Morse code.
- Each team should stand in a socially distanced line in the right order for their word or phrase. The two teams should be opposite each other – everyone should be facing one person from the other team.
- The first person in one team should use their torch to send their letter. They should be careful not to flash their torch into the eyes of the person opposite them.
- The person opposite them should try to identify the letter and shout it out for everyone to hear.
- Everyone should continue spelling the word letter by letter, waiting for the person opposite them to identify the letter before moving on.
- Once they’ve identified all of the letters, the team should put them together and shout out the word or phrase.
- The teams should swap over so the other team has a chance to send a word.
- When each team has worked out the other team’s word, congratulate everyone on learning some basic Morse code – what an achievement!
This activity introduced everyone to the international system of Morse code, which has been around for almost two hundred years. How did everyone find learning Morse code using their torches? Were any letters particularly hard to remember or send?
Learning how to communicate great distances without using words or modern technology is a great survival skill – congratulate everyone on trying something new. When might people use Morse code? Can anyone remember how to send any of the letters in ‘well done’?
Provide some light, so the environment isn’t completely dark. Everyone must be able to see others and move around the area safely.