Explore Maps and Directions with a Homemade Compass

03 April

Recently the girls have shown more interest in school and as a result I have started going through Five in a Row (volume 1) with them.

Honestly it isn't much different then some of the things we would normally do like book related activities, but it gives a great guideline that ties tons of topics into a single book (which you read each day for five days).

The makers of Five in a Row only expect you to discuss each topic or do a small project, but we all know I have to further with, well, everything, and add something hands on.

So the first book we chose was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton; because at the time, we had a big snow!


One thing we went over with this book was cardinal directions and reading maps. My girls have only had to read maps for things like treasure hunts, so this was new. Especially when we threw the directions in with it!

And I have to admit that I am not the best navigator either ass my husband will attest to. I am either staring out the window daydreaming or turning the map to face the same direction we are. Hopefully by starting early my kids will be a but better at map reading!

So we decided to make a map of our neighborhood, and to help with the directions, we made a compass.


Supplies to Make a Homemade Compass



How to Assemble a Homemade Compass


Start by rubbing your magnet on the needle; always going the same direction. 

Then insert your needle into your cork or styrofoam.

Gently place the cork or styrofoam with the needle on the water. The needle should spin around and point to north. (More complete instructions at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration).


Obviously, while standing in my kitchen, I knew where north was, but to show the girls that we actually did make a compass I got out a real compass to compare. 

And look! They point the same way! 


With this information we were able to make our map.   


Use a Compass to Make a Map

I started by drawing our house and a little compass on paper, and then started asking them what would be north, south, east, or west of our house.

At first they struggled a bit, so I would point in  the direction and tell them to imagine they were standing outside, what would they see.  

Eventually they caught on, and I was able to ask them which directions things even farther away (like Grandma's) would be. 



They got the idea pretty well and went back to the book and were easily able to read the directions on the map and figure out which way Katy drove while she was clearing snow. 

Over the 5 days of reading and discussing Katy and the Big Snow the girls came to really enjoy the book and remember the lessons taught by it.

And they are definitely a lot more interested in maps and directions now too! Hopefully it will serve them well when they have to navigate roads on their own or as the navigator.

More fun ways to help kids learn about geography include Location Nesting Boxes and Geocaching!

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