Pathfinders: Making Maps

There are lots of good reasons to work on making maps, and several badges now require it for pathfinders. But how do you make it fun? Because scouting is a game we are playing, and we want our pathfinders to enjoy their meetings, as well as learn from them. One thing that it is important to remember, is that you can set them up to learn more, if you don’t tell them how exactly how to do something. Valuing the learning experience over the end product of the map changes the way you can approach this activity with your pathfinders.

Setting Up A Challenge

One interesting way to create both group work and a challenge for a map making activity, is to assign your pathfinders to work in teams, and give each team an area to map of your campsite or meeting place.  Choose a central or obvious landmark, and tell them each of their maps should include that place/object and then assign them each a different area moving away from that object to map. Mention they should include trails, landmarks and other things of interest. Offer graph paper, and point out that they need to figure out how many steps or units of measure each square will represent.


Once they have created their maps, instruct your pathfinders to try to fit their maps together. Can they make one big map of the area? Because you did not give them instructions to all use the same unit of measure, nor which way to orient the maps, they probably won’t fit quite right. Did they choose to orient them with north at the top? What unit of measure did each group use?  Let them explore the maps and discuss these points. On their own, they will figure out the importance of orienting maps, and standardizing scale. Looking at the maps their friends have made will also help them consider different ways to represent items and other ways they could have made their maps. Ask them “If I had never been here, could I use your map to find things?”  Let them ponder that.


These maps are probably not going to be the best maps ever made. But that isn’t the point. The point here, is for the pathfinders to learn about map making and what should be on a good map. By letting them make mistakes and get dirty it will let them learn far more than making them perfect the first time. There are multiple badges that require map making. Each badge will require a new map, and the more of these the pathfinders make, the better they will be at these skills. By the time they are making maps for their First Class award, they will remember to use a standard unit of measure and to orient it towards north before they start.

One of the worst things you can do as a scout leader is to discourage your pathfinders while they are learning. Instead, engage them. Create challenges and let them learn from their mistakes. OSG meeting should be a place they feel safe to make mistakes.  After all, we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.

Looking for more ideas for ways to work on map reading?  This post has lots of creative ideas to make map reading fun and practical. 

Do you have an activity you did with your guides that you’d like to share? Send it to and we will add it to the Guides4Guides site!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *