Navigating Virtually at Carson High School

Students learn about orienteering using innovative technology amid the pandemic
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:01 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A high school course meant to be taken out in the field is having to make a major adjustment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Orienteering is land navigation.  You do not use any GPS, no electronic equipment.  All you have is a magnetic compass and map,” says Chief Petty Officer Daniel Ingram, who is the Orienteering Instructor at Carson High School.

But his orienteering class is looking very different this year.  And it’s not what senior Ashton Davis anticipated when he signed up.

“Not at all,” says Davis.  “I was expecting to be out running, maybe even going to Spooner Lake and getting some hands-on orienteering rather than being on the computer.”

But on the computer in the classroom is pretty much where he and others in the class are spending all their hours this semester, since field trips to the mountains and even local parks can’t happen amid the pandemic.  When Ingram learned about the restrictions last year, he knew he had to find a way for his students to learn map reading and terrain navigation without leaving the classroom.

“I reached out to Bay Area Orienteering Club and asked, ‘What can we do virtually?  Are there any programs and they directed me to this Catching Features program.  I thought, this is fantastic.  It actually does the exact same thing.  It develops their skills,” says Ingram.

The program allows students to do orienteering in a virtual world.  They have to learn how to decipher maps and guide their avatars over various virtual elevations and around trees and lakes in a timed race.

“It’s almost uncanny how it really is a real world situation in the computer,” says Ingram.

Senor Adam Stearns says he feels like he’s missing out a little bit, but he’s also having fun while gaining important skills.

“I am also getting a good general understanding,” he says.  “Instead of just going out in the field and not knowing what we’re doing. we’re getting the content we need to know in order to get out in the field.”

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