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Navigate from a distance

Learn how to use a map and compass to discover things around your local area.

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Sticky tack
  • Compass
  • 1:25000 OS map of the area around your meeting place
  • Access to printer or photocopier

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • Find your meeting place on a 1:25000 OS map of your local area. Photocopy the map so your meeting place is as close to the centre of the page as possible. Make enough copies for each person to have their own and mark the location of your meeting place on each copy.
  • If you don’t have access to a map or a photocopier, have a look at OS maps online and print out as many copies as you need.
  • On one of the photocopies, highlight any map symbols on the page such as churches, schools, or car parks. You only need to highlight one of each symbol. If you’re not sure what they look like, check the legend on the map or watch this Ordnance Survey video.
  • Draw or print out copies of the symbols you found on the map. Label them and stick them up around your meeting place. They’ll need to be quite big as people will stay in one spot rather than moving closer.
  • Choose symbols or landmarks that are north, south, east, and west of your meeting place. Make sure that people circle them in step three or six so you can use them in the final part of the activity.
  • Place a pen or pencil, a piece of paper, a photocopy of the map, and a compass in sets or piles around your meeting place. Make sure the piles are a safe distance apart.
  • If you don’t have enough equipment for everyone to do this activity at the same time, some of the group could do something else and then the groups could swap. Make sure you clean all of the equipment between uses and swap the paper.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity.  Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session.
  • Stay socially distanced when moving around the space and when talking to each other.
  • Try to avoid sharing equipment. If people need to share equipment, plan in hygiene breaks to clean it between uses.
  • Make sure there’s enough space for everyone to sit down while staying two metres apart from each other.

Start navigating

  1. Everyone should find their own pile of equipment and sit by it.
  1. The person leading the activity should name a landmark or area they know is on the map of their local area, for example, a lake or a train station.
  2. Everyone should pick up their map and find the landmark or area. Once they’ve found it, they should point to it and lift up their maps so the person leading the activity can see it. If they’ve found it correctly, they should circle it. 
  3. Everyone should repeat steps two and three until they’ve circled enough landmarks or areas.
  4. Everyone should find their meeting place, which the person leading the activity has labelled.
  5. Everyone should look around the room at the symbols on the walls. They should try to match them to their map. Every time they find a match they should circle the symbol with their pen or pencil.
  6. The person leading the activity should ask people to take it in turns to explain a symbol they found and point at it on their map. If anyone missed a symbol, someone who found it should help them find it.
  1. Once everyone’s had a turn to show a symbol, they should pick up their compass and look at it. Can they see all of the letters?
  2. The person leading the activity should explain that compasses help people figure out which direction they’re travelling in.
  1. Everyone should stand up, put their compass in their hand, and hold it flat.
  2. Everyone should turn around on the spot until the small red needle matches up with the big red needle. The person leading the activity should explain that everyone’s facing north. Everyone should turn around slowly to go through the east, south, and west.
  3. Everyone should sit back down and spin their paper round until it’s landscape. They should place their compass on their paper and spin both round at the same time until they find north. The person leading the activity should check that everyone’s paper is facing the right way.
  1. The person leading the activity should choose four symbols on their map: one that’s north of their meeting place, one that’s east, one that’s south, and one that’s west.
  1. The person leading the game should shout out a direction. Everyone should look at their maps and find a circled symbol, landmark, or area in that direction from their meeting place. Once they’ve found it, they should shout out their answer.
  1. Keep going until you’ve covered all four directions at least once.


This activity gave everyone the chance to develop a skill. Why is being able to navigate a really useful skill to learn? People could think about how it can help people avoid getting lost and help them explore new places. Why is it important to learn what all of the different symbols on a map mean?

For lots of people, this activity was also about trying something new. Had people seen an OS map before? What did they think? People may have thought it had lots of little details or lots of new symbols they hadn’t seen before. Was it easy to tell what the symbols represented?  Would people recognise them if they saw them again?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.