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Micro Ventures: How to Make a Compass

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Update: Added new resource on how to use to a compass properly.

In May 2015 SheJumps launched its first Wild Skills day camp at the Mountaineers' facility in Seattle, Washington. We hosted more than 60 girls ranging in age from 6-17 and taught them the foundational skills needed for a lifetime of adventure, confidence, and leadership in the outdoors. Since that first event, we have hosted more than 100 Wild Skills events in 10 states and impacted nearly 3,000 girls with our transformative and essential outdoor education curriculum.

Our team has found a way to 'rise above' and create a virtual Wild Skills experience for everyone! We are so excited to announce the launch of Micro Ventures, a free digital program to engage individuals and their families in fun, nature-related activities. Stay tuned for a different "Micro Venture" each week this summer.

During Wild Skills events, SheJumps volunteers teach kids the importance of being able to use a map and compass. Having a map is almost useless if you don’t know how to use a compass properly. Stay tuned for future Micro Ventures on map reading.

Get members of your household involved and create the two types of at-home compasses.

SheJumps Micro Ventures: How to Make a Compass
SheJumps Micro Ventures: How to Make a Compass

Share your projects on social media by tagging @SheJumps and #SJMicroVentures.

Gear list

Below is a list of things that you will use to make your own compass:

  • 2 needles

  • Magnet

  • Straight pin

  • Cork

  • Scissors

  • 2 plastic cups (preferably clear)

  • Water

  • Thread

  • Pencil or stick

How to magnetize a needle

In order for a compass to work, you’ll need to magnetize the needle so it can point to magnetic north. Magnetic north varies from true north depending on where you are in the world. The difference between the two is called declination and is normally indicated on the map.

First, rub the pointed end of the needle along one end of the magnet. Repeat 30 times rubbing in the same direction.

Second, test the magnetized needle by trying to pick up the straight pin with it. If you can pick up the pin, the needle is magnetized.

Repeat the process with the other needle.

Hanging compass

  1. Tie end of a short piece of thread to the center of the magnetized needle.

  2. Tie the other end of the thread to the pencil or stick.

  3. Place the pencil over the rim of the plastic cup. The magnetized end of the needle will point north.

Floating compass

  1. Cut a small piece of cork, and push the magnetized needle through it.

  2. Fill a plastic cup with water.

  3. Place the cork with the magnetized needle into the cup so the cork floats in the center. The magnetized end will always face north.

Learning parts of a compass

After the exercise, you're know familiar with how a compass works. If you have a compass laying around the house, pull it out.

  1. Play with it and get to know your compass at home.

  2. Look up the compass brand name on the internet and find the user manual.

  3. Go through the different parts of the compass with the group.

  4. Try to navigate around your yard or your house.

Compasses come in many versions. To keep it simple, most compasses have a clear base plate that allows you to lay it over a map to help take bearings.

Within the round part of the compass, you’ll find needle house detail, which is where the magnetized needle can be found. The lines in the needle house are for orienting your location on the map. A rotating bezel is the circle around the compass that has 360-degree markings.

Some compasses allow you to set a declination. This is why compasses used with maps are so important. The map usually tells you what to set your compass declination to.

REI provides a great tutorial on navigation basics here.

What's next?

Share your activity with friends and family and plan or start your next Micro Venture.

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