Three Simple Ways To Teach Map and Compass
1) Reading a Compass and Orienteering
How did the explorers of long ago find their way around? They used a compass and a map. Compasses are still used today to help people navigate across the landscape. They are used just for fun in the sport of orienteering.
Orienteering is navigating with a map and compass. It's easy to learn, but always challenging. Orienteering is often called the "thinking sport" because it involves map reading and decision-making in addition to a great workout - usually walking to a desired location. Any kind of map may be used for orienteering (even a street map), but the best ones are detailed five-color topographic maps developed especially for the sport. Orienteering maps show boulders, cliffs, ditches, and fences, in addition to elevation, vegetation, and trails.
Orienteering is a sport for everyone, regardless of age or experience, but before you can try it, you need to know how to read a compass.
Getting to know a compass
This first step in becoming an explorer is to learn how to read and use a compass. There are many types of compasses. This will get you started with a compass that has a rectangular base, a rotating dial, and housing made of clear plastic.
- Find the directional signs, north, south, east and west. North is the most important direction to help orient yourself. Now find the orienting arrow, magnetic needle, and the direction of travel arrow on your compass.
- Notice that the magnetic needle points naturally towards the earth's magnetic north pole. Be careful to keep your compass away from metal, like a zipper, because it can affect the magnetic needle and lead you in the wrong direction.
- Hold the compass level in the palm of your hand near your chest, with the direction arrow facing away from body.
- Turn the housing so the N is lined up with the red end of the magnetic needle.
- Turn the housing so the E is lined up with the direction of travel arrow. Now you're ready to use the compass.
Using a compass
Now that you've taken a closer look at your compass, go outside and give this fun activity a try.
Pick up four stones or twigs to use as markers. Put them in your pocket. You might find it helpful to have someone read the following directions to you.
- Place a marker where you are standing.
- Turn the housing on the compass so that N (north) lines up with the direction arrow.
- Hold the compass level in the palm of your hand, chest high, with the direction arrow facing away from your body.
- Turn your whole body, including your feet, until the red magnetic needle lines up with the orienting arrow on the dial.
- Look up. Choose a landmark, like a rock, tree or sign which is exactly ahead of you in the distance. Take six steps toward that spot without looking at the compass. Stop. Place a marker here.
- Turn the housing on the compass so that W (west) lines up with the direction arrow. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5.
- Turn the housing on the compass so that S (south) lines up with the direction arrow. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5.
- Turn the dial on the compass so that E (east) lines up with the direction arrow.
Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5.
Did you return to your first marker?
Go back and walk to each marker.
What shape did you make? You should have made a square.
Now repeat the activity using the following degrees: 360, 90, 180, 270. This should also make the same square.
Congratulations, you now know how to use a compass.
--Adapted from the Wisconsin Explorer program, Wisconsin
2) How to use a compass
Using the compass alone
This is a very easy lesson, and I would say, not sufficient for those who would like to travel safely in unfamiliar terrain.
The first thing you need to learn, are the directions. North, South, East and West. Look at the figure and learn how they are. North is the most important.
There are several kinds of compasses, one kind to attach to the map, one kind to attach to your thumb. The thumb-compass is used mostly by orienteers who just want to run fast, and this is the kind of compass I normally use.
But not in this tutorial. I would recommend the third kind of compass. Let's take a look at it:
You see this red and black arrow? We call it the compass needle. Well, on some compasses it might be red and white for instance, but the point is, the red part of it is always pointing towards the earth's magnetic north pole. Got that? That's basically what you need to know. It's as simple as that.
But if you don't want to go north, but a different direction? Hang on and I'll tell you.
You've got this turnable thing on your compass. We call it the Compass housing. On the edge of the compass housing, you will probably have a scale. From 0 to 360 or from 0 to 400. Those are the degrees or the azimuth (or you may also call it the bearing in some contexts). And you should have the letters N, S, W and E for North, South, West and East. If you want to go in a direction between two of these, you would combine them. If you would like to go in a direction just between North and West, you simply say: "I would like to go Northwest ".
Let's use that as an example: You want to go northwest. What you do, is that you find out where on the compass housing northwest is. Then you turn the compass housing so that northwest on the housing comes exactly there where the large direction of travel-arrow meets the housing.
Hold the compass in your hand. And you'll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn't turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.
Now, time to be careful!. It is extremely important that the red, north part of the compass needle points at north in the compass housing. If south points at north, you would walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want! And it's a very common mistake among beginners. So always take a second look to make sure you did it right!