Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cardinal points, pt 2.

(Fall is coming!!)

Welcome back! To begin today I want to add to the previous post regarding compasses. If you do not have a compass, go to your local outdoor store and pick one up. It should cost you no more than $20 for a decent compass, and it is a tool you and your kids can use for life. We will talk about compass use and GPS units at another time.

So onto today's activity. If you have determined where the cardinal points are relative to your home, great. If not, please do so. Once you have done that, place some objects to mark the cardinal points. These objects could be inside your home if you have limited space outside, or around your yard. Inside you could put up the letters N,S,E, and W to designate the directions. And outside, place simple things like plants, rocks, or small flags. Once you have done that, go outside and look for fixed objects that are as close to the cardinal directions as possible, and fairly close to your home. It could be a tree, hill, building, lamp post, etc. Choose something that won't move. I know that is common sense, but I just want to make sure. By using objects that you and your kids can see everyday, you will begin to train your internal compass to recognize the cardinal directions.

That's it for today, nothing grand, just another small step to get you and your kids oriented to the natural world. Getting familiar with directions will help us in exploring your town, street, city, and back yard. If you are heading out this weekend, stop every once in awhile and see if together you can figure out where N,S,E, and W are located. Developing the habit of periodically checking in and seeing where the cardinal directions are continues to helps us develop our internal compass.

If you have very young children, do not worry about the directions just yet. Try and let them spend at least 1 hour a day outside just experiencing nature. It could be going for a walk, or playing outside, just make it fun. By getting them outside at least for a little while each day you are helping them become accustomed to the changes in weather this time of year.

If you have older kids, late middle school or high school aged, have them choose additional landmarks in various locations around town. Have them begin to recognize local landmarks to help them determine the cardinal directions. In some places this is easy: In St. Louis, the arch is almost always to the east. In Boston, the ocean is either in the east or south. Look for popular places that are easy to find from almost anywhere in your area.

Nature Nugget:
At this time of the month in September, at night you will see a bright object in the southern sky, it is the planet Jupiter. Also Venus is the "morning star" right now. It will be the brightest object in the sky before the sun rises in the eastern sky.

A little story:
I am going to finish today with a little story about directions. I was at a conference this past February in Boulder Colorado. We had gone to another part of town one night for an evening session. When I came out to walk back my hotel, I realized I was not familiar with the part of town I was in. I knew generally where I was, but no specifics. Luckily it was a clear night. I looked up, found the north star, and began navigating back to my hotel that was located in the southern part of the city. It took a little time but with the stars as my guide, and a little previous map knowledge of Boulder, I made it back to the hotel in about an hour. Yeah, I could have taken a cab, but where is the adventure in that!
And remember to send in stories, comments, and feedback to:


  1. Hey Shawn-
    This is a fantastic idea! I am always looking for large and small ways to add extra teachable moments to our programs and cirriculum. I have dearly missed your daily knowledge. I think this is a wonderful way to get a little learning done everyday. -Trouble

  2. I'm really enjoying this. Thanks for posting the link! You're doing cool things and it's appreciated.