Navigation an innovation has been proceeding for hundreds of years. Before smartphone apps, we had a map and also a compass. Prior to map and compass, we had tools that i couldn’t even start to describe with monster names favor “astrolabes,” “octants,” “sextants,” and something called the “black staff” (doesn’t that sound intimidating?). But even without those tools, people used and also observed things in the natural world roughly them to get where they were going. 

We can also use things in the natural world to number out whereby North, South, East, and also West are, and also these are things that you can find in your very own backyard, neighborhood, or regional parks. Inspect out these approaches to check out if you an alert any patterns and also then compare her findings through a compass:





Trees will grow their branches in the direction the receives the many sun. This method that trees will certainly have more branches ~ above the south dealing with side because it is exposed come the many sunlight throughout the day.

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Mosses will thrive on any kind of hard surface, including the political parties of trees, however they prefer to thrive on North-facing surfaces due to the fact that they favor the darker, much more humid environment. If you nothing see any kind of moss cultivation on trees, additionally check top top rocks. Mosses love to thrive on hard surfaces, for this reason trees and also rocks space perfect homes for them.


After you check for moss, look roughly the basic of some trees because that ant hills. Ants will build their nests so the they are exposed to the many sunlight, which is normally encountering south. The exposure come sunlight gives them with much more heat and better insulation for your underground colony.


Vegetation and Undergrowth


As pointed out before, things that face south obtain the most sunlight which is vital for plant growth. If you are in the woods and also see a job of thick, luscious vegetation, that is probably on a southward facing slope.


Around the go trail at Lake Lynn (a good City the Raleigh park come visit, if you haven’t already), there space a couple of blackberry bushes located right turn off the trace in many spots. If friend take notification of the bushes, girlfriend will watch that lock all have actually red berries, but specific bushes have some berries the are beginning to ripen and turn black. This is due to the fact that those bushes face…you have the right to probably guess at this point…south! Fruit bushes, trees, and also vines that challenge south start to ripen earlier than the exact same plants the are dealing with the other directions.

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Big Dipper

Using the stars to discover directions deserve to be a little tricky. Over there is one star in the skies that always points North, i m sorry is why it has actually the nickname, “The north Star.” but how have the right to you choose it out from all the various other stars in the night sky? This ( an approach makes it a tiny easier because it is every based about the large Dipper, which is just one of the most quickly identifiable star trends in the night sky.

Of course, over there are constantly going to it is in variations in nature, and also these techniques are not as reliable as a compass. Moss doesn’t just grow encountering north, trees have branches pointing in all directions, and plants won’t dice if they are encountering North, East, or West. But, observing and also checking these things can help you notification patterns in the herbal world. Lock will also give you a glimpse into how challenging it was for civilization that lived long ago to navigate there is no tools. Although they might be imperfect tools, one imperfect device is far better than no tool at every if girlfriend ever find yourself in one emergency.

Check out the video clip below to learn a small about exactly how compasses work and also see just how you deserve to make your very own compass with items friend probably currently have in your house! 

Interested in learning more about compasses and also orienteering? save your eye out for next worry of the Nature connection to learn exactly how compasses work, what orienteering is, and also how you can construct your very own compass with materials you deserve to find roughly your house!

Department: Parks, Recreation and cultural Resources associated Services: Nature Parks, Preserves, and also Programs