aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Which way did they go?

Well, we did our troop orienteering course today. I had set up a brand-new one, just under two miles. Everything so easy it made my heart ache. But kids just have a terrible time figuring out how to actually use map and compass together to follow a course. It all turns to spaghetti noodles in their heads. It is easier to teach knots and lashings to a left-handed dyslexic than to pound compass work into their heads. (That's not a slur on left-handers, dyslexic or otherwise; I've actually taught them ropework, and I am making a comparison based on experience.)

Anyway, I made this beautiful little course. Each of the five controls had a line of poetry, which they would have to write down when they found it. When they completed the course, the entire poem would be evident. Plus, they would have to estimate the height of the bell tower from alley to eaves.

Well, they went off well enough. Three Scouts and one dad, all with their own compasses and maps. After a few minutes I walked up the hill behind the church to see if they were on their way. They had gone a half a block, and were searching behind things and inside things. Sheesh. All they had to do was keep going another quarter block, and the control would be right on the telephone pole, in front of the Bohlens' house. My heart sank. I checked back a few minutes later, and saw them clustered around the sign, so they made it at last, but I figured I'd better shadow them and make sure they were getting this done.

The second control was so dead easy, I figured nobody could miss it. It was just downhill from the first control on Association St., behind the Edgewood High School sign. I even gave them a descriptive clue: "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh for a sign." And by the time I'd got my truck and gone after them, I saw them heading up the big hill to the high school, well aimed toward the third control.

I drove ahead of them and approached the third control from the downhill side in the Ridge Springs subdivision. The control was tacked to a big ol' tree right at the main intersection of Louden Rd. and the crossway between the Junior High parking lot and the soccer field. It stood out for 300 yards both directions; you couldn't miss it. I snuck up by the line of trees along the street, however, and there were no Scouts there. I peered around the trees, and there they were, back at the football field, looking for Easter Eggs around the concession stand. Oy.

I drove around toward the Senior High parking lot and got out and approached SPL Daniel. The long leg they were following was over 3500' long. I asked him if he knew how long 3500' was. No, he said. How long is a mile? 5280'? Yes. How much of 5280 was 3500? [Blank look] 35 divided by 53, how much is that? I don't know, he said. It's about two-thirds of a mile. Have you gone two-thirds of a mile from the last control? I don't know. I wanted to hit myself in the head with a five pound sledgehammer; instead, I left him to cogitate upon the possibilities and drove around to my original observation post.

Eventually, they figured it out, walked along the drive a bit and See! Behold! Look! Lo! there it was. The whole thing reminded me of nothing so much as that old campfire skit, where some guy is down on his knees, looking at the ground. When asked, he says he lost his neckerchief slide. When asked where he lost it, he says, "over there." When then asked why he's looking over here, he replies, "the light's better here." Having figured out that they were underestimating their distances, however, they lifted up their faces and did the last two controls, to the little maintenance building in Methodist Cemetery and then the three-way intersection of Thomas, Reeves, and Sale St., with confidence.

When they returned to the church, I got them to estimate the height of the bell tower. Logan was dead on; his method was to estimate how high a basketball goal would be on the side of the church, then stack up basketball goals with his fingers. Not bad. Callahan was a little long; he used the laying-over method where you pace the tower's height off on the ground, and he didn't have a firm sense of how long his pace was. Daniel came up with a number preposterously long; but then, he stacked up imaginary Callahans against the tower at first and actually came pretty close, only to think that it couldn't be that short and thus guessing way over.

I signed Callahan's book and will sign Logan's next chance I get. Daniel passed this requirement long ago. And what was the five line poem I wrote for the course? Well, it went,
This required me to explain to them what the old Burma Shave signs were about. Pardon me while I go feel my age in the corner.
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