Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Navigation Unit

Getting Your Bearings: A Navigation Unit for Linked Mathematics and Earth Science Classes

Valerie Harris, Suki Smaglik and Carol Rardin
Central Wyoming College
Author Profile

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 22, 2008


This is a hands-on activity designed to teach basic land navigation skills using compass, GPS units and topographic maps. This unit relies heavily on math skills.

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Introductory earth science courses and non-majors math requirement. See a course profile for a course that uses this activity.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

High-school mathematics and college-level reading.

How the activity is situated in the course

This stand-alone unit on Navigation consists of several exercises. Several of them are under revision and will be posted at a later date.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

land navigation with map, compass and/or GPS

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

mathematical problem solving including unit conversion

Other skills goals for this activity

use of compass and hand-held GPS; UTM grid tools; topographic map reading; working in teams toward a common goal; peer teaching

Description of the activity/assignment

This unit on Navigation begins with a brief history of navigation and maps, including building a simple compass as an introduction to the magnetic field of Earth. Division of Earth navigation units in Lat/Long and UTM are explored in detail. Topographic maps as an expression of Earth's surface are used to integrate all of the pervious topics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

There is a brief quiz at every stage of the unit (after each exercise).

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Lesson Plans from Brunton
Topopgraphic Maps CD by Tasa