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    From: Ed Popko
    Date: 2016 Apr 21, 13:24 -0700

    the recent Monarch Butterfly Navigation thread, reminds me of the years I spent as a Boy Scout counselor for the Orienteering merit badge. It's quite interesting to see the differences in how young boy's think about direction, distance and how to get from one place to another. First, I have to point out that most all of my Orienteering subjects live in a semi-rural area but close enough to a mid-sized city and occasional visits to Manhattan.

    I found two and a half Orienteering types.

    One type clearly uses a Cartesian Model with orthogonal north, south, east and west relationships. They catch onto compass use and corrections quite easily. They read maps well and can read them upside down just as easily. They are good with the 'tools' and can even count contours on a map and plan to cross them diagonally if the overall slope is too steep to hike up directly.

    Another type thinks in Topological relationships. They see objects as being a sequence of things passed over, passed on their left side or passed to their right. And they get around things by going clockwise or counterclockwise keeping it on their left or on their right. They are not into the 'tools' as much as the Cartesian guys. They do very well on navigating snaking and criss crossing rural roads, meandering paths where knowing where north is isn’t so helpful. After being driven around an unfamiliar rural road and it pops out at a familiar intersection, they suddenly claim to understand the big chunck they have been passing through. Kids who orientate this way seem to pay more attention to landmarks, left and rights than the first type.

    Another example of this kind of orienteering is from the book The Hobbit. Gollum and the goblins of the Misty Mountain navigate the labyrinth of unlit underground tunnels to and from the surface by feeling the inclination of the tunnel floor and counting the number of side tunnel openings as they pass either left or right. Bilbo excapes the tunnels by following Gollum counting tunnel openings.

    A third half-type, is the one who uses neither of the above ones but makes good guesses by watching the behavior of others. This is kind of a 'Follow-the-leader’ navigation and it works somewhat in heavily populated situations like congested subway stations, sporting events or crouded complex malls. It seems to work to some extent when one can read the flow of the crowd can guess where people are going.

    Some kids mix and match the above methods. These kids are the kind that when taken anywhere once can always find it again at a future date.

    Ed Popko

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