The Olympic Games in London and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow both inspired an increase in sports participation - now organisers of the Highland 2015 world orienteering festival are anticipating a similar reaction.

Highland 2015 - the festival of orienteering taking place in the Highlands and Moray from July 31 to August 7 that incorporates the World Orienteering Championships and the Scottish 6 Days - is set to attract over 6000 competitors and thousands of spectators from throughout the world.

It is already becoming evident that WOC2015 is proving inspiration in schools throughout the Highlands and Moray, as evidenced at Milne's Primary School in Moray, where P7 teacher Jane Barker was one of the first to introduce Orienteering classes to her enthusiastic pupils.

Jane introduced a series of four progressive sessions that culminated in an outing to local woodlands where they took part for the first time in 'real' orienteering competition.  Mrs Baker said: “The pupils enjoy orienteering and all its different ways that they can participate.  It enthuses them to learn more about maps, symbols and navigation.  

"By being able to understand maps, they will be able to use mathematics, problem solving and decision-making skills.  It is a great sport for meeting all of the significant aspects of PE and improves the health and wellbeing of pupils, as well as their cardiovascular fitness.”

So popular where the sessions at the Fochabers school that similar lessons were introduced at other primary schools in the region, organised in association with Scottish Orienteering's regional development officer in Moray, Mike Rodgers.

The Moray Schools Orienteering Project was launched at the end of the Scottish 6 Days Event held in Moray in two years ago.  The project was dubbed “WOC2015 and Beyond” and attracted funding from the Elgin Rotary Club along with donations from British Orienteering, the Scottish Orienteering Association and Moray-based national company Springfield properties.

Participating 'school clusters' contributed to the project and between them allowed for state-of-the-art electronic orienteering equipment to be purchased for use by schools.

“This was major project” explained Mike Rodgers, who added: “Thanks to the enthusiasm of five of Moray’s eight schools clusters, we now have enough equipment to enable them to take orienteering to a whole new level. 

"It would have been no use waiting for the World Championships to happen amidst all the hype and media coverage and then ask “what now?”  Instead, there’s been the vision to get this kit in place ahead of the game, and by the time WOC2015 comes round staff and pupils will be getting to grips with the potential of this kit. 

"It will kick start an exciting way of linking physical activity to many other areas of the curriculum. 

"Everyone is talking about the legacy that came about after Glasgow 2014 and the London Olympics - well here in Moray we now have everything in place to build a fantastic sporting legacy of our own, for a World Championships that will be staged on our doorsteps – and one in which local children can compete themselves before watching the world’s best in action."

The Director for the World Orienteering Championships, Paul McGreal, said that the Moray project had given a clear demonstration of the long-term benefit hosting a major world championship can bring.

Mr McGreal added: "By the time the final event takes place at WOC2015 this summer we hope and expect that orienteering will be seen for the unique and exciting sport it is, one that appeals to people of all ages and fitness levels.

"Our hope is that schools throughout the country will look at the educational benefits realised in Moray and in other parts of the country - and copy their lead."

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