PILOT MOUNTAIN — A compass can be a mysterious and weird instrument to many folks these days, but “once you’ve used one, it’s really not that complicated,” said Park Ranger Nick Bowman.
Bowman taught a map and compass workshop to a group of children at Pilot Mountain State Park on Saturday.
In the free, hour-long session, the group of kids were introduced to basics such as the parts of the compass, how to hold it and set a bearing.
“One thing you always need to remember,” Bowman told them, “is that the needle is always facing toward magnetic north. As long as you know that and remember that, you can always find your way.”
About two or three educational programs are offered throughout the week.
Attendance varies, Bowman said; sometimes the classes are filled with locals and others with campers or visitors.
On Saturday, members of a Kernersville Girl Scout troop attended the program.
“We came to introduce the girls to being comfortable in nature and help them respect it,” said Debbie Davison, troop leader.
“There’s a renewed spirit to getting the girls back outdoors,” she said, explaining that in past years the Girl Scouts have focused on STEM skills and business.
“Which is good, also,” she said. “You need that balance.”
The compass experience will help the girls earn badges such as hiking, Davison said. The four girls were also working on becoming Junior Rangers, a program run through the state park system.
“Junior Rangers is a good introduction to start not screaming when you see a spider,” the troop leader said.
After practicing a bit at the park amphitheater, the children were given slips of paper with about four bearings listed.
As a group, they started from a numbered post, each practicing setting the bearing then sighting a tree to guide their movement.
When they got to the tree, a new numbered post signified success and the next starting point.
In that manner, the group plotted their way through the woods and back to the amphitheater.
Riley Gordon, 7, sighted the last tree and was surprised to see the post right behind it.
She said figuring out how to use the compass was exciting.
“It really was because I didn’t really know it was my tree that I chose,” she said. “It was really fun.”
Bowman said the map and compass workshop is offered several times a year.
“I like it because it’s great practice for when we get out on a search and rescue,” he said, and enjoys helping others learn the art.
“A lot of people are not familiar with the compass and map,” he said. “When it clicks, then it’s really neat.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.