Navigating without a compass is easier when you know how to find north using the sun. Here is a simple technique that you can teach your kids. Don’t forget to explain the science behind it!
When to Find North Using the Sun
Of course, if you are lost and need to find your way without a compass, you can use this method to find north. However, the smartest use for this is to find north before you head out on an adventure. That way you know which direction you are headed and can then find north and make sure you head back in the right direction. If you don’t know where you came from, knowing which way is north might not be of any use.
To find north on a sunny day, you’ll need a straight, medium sized stick and two rocks. Find a clear sunny area and push the stick into the ground or have a partner hold it. Mark the end of the stick’s shadow with a rock.
Take a break and wait 15-20 minutes making sure you keep the stick in the same spot. So if you are just holding it, you’ll need to mark where you placed it if you want to put it down.
Then do the same thing and mark the end of the stick’s shadow. Put your left foot on the first rock and your right foot on the second rock. The way you are facing is north. Now you can mark each direction, north; east; south; west, with your stick.
The Science Behind Finding North with the Sun
Make sure to remind your children that the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. That means that the sun’s shadow points in the opposite direction. If the sun is in the eastern part of the sky (before noon) then it’s shadow is pointing west. Your first rock stands for west and your second rock stands for east. So, if you make a point directly in the middle of your east and west rocks you can find north.
This is a great review of directions and map reading. If you want to go further you can look up how your area of the world is affected by where the sun is in the sky. Some great questions to ask: How does the direction of the sun affect plants? How does the sun’s rising and setting pattern affect animal habitats? What does the pattern of the rising and setting of the sun look like throughout the year; how does it change?
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Oh! now that’s a cool science activity! I haven’t seen this one before – love learning new skills like this. And we hike a lot so this will come in handy 🙂
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