Do I Go This Way … or That Way?

Contributor: Kaitlyn Aston. Lesson ID: 12478

You're lost in the woods with only the clothes on your back and a map. You have directions to your house, but how do you know which way is North? Or South? Sounds like a job for... the compass!


Earth Science, Physical Science

learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Congratulations! Today is your first day as a park ranger! You are responsible for making sure everyone follows the rules of the park and stays safe. As you are leading a group over the mountains of the Northern Cascades, some people spot a mountain goat just off the trail! At first, you are feeling generous and let them leave the trail to take some pictures. But moments later, you realize you just let the group do something VERY dangerous; and even worse, you have lost the trail! What do you do now?

Don’t panic! Remember, you have a compass in your backpack. As soon as you take the compass out, you can breathe a sigh of relief because it points north — the direction of the trail.

Compasses do sound very helpful for when someone gets lost; I don’t think I ever want to get lost without a compass ever again!

  • Speaking of compasses, how exactly do these tools work?

If you have your Discover! Science program, check out some additional pages for more information about how compasses rely on magnets in order to function properly.

That’s right; the answer is magnets!

  • How do magnets make a compass work?

I think this is a great question to ask Dr. Z!



Thanks, Dr. Z! It really is neat how a compass works, and that it is so easy to make one!

  • Do you remember what materials you needed in order to make the compass in the video?

Before moving on, if you need to find your way around the previous lessons in our Magnets series, you can find them in the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

As you have seen, compasses are very helpful when you are trying to find your way around. Sometimes, we can get lost when we do not mean to, but compasses can help us determine which way to go if we have a map with directions. However, sometimes it can be hard for us to remember which way is north, south, east, or west, when using a compass. You don’t have to feel lost anymore!

  • Want help remembering the directions of a compass?

Watch Cardinal Directions Song, by Mr. R's Songs for Teaching:


When you are done, continue on to the Got It? section to explain what you know!

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