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.
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.
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 Dept. of Natural Resources.